Posted by: crudbasher | July 11, 2013

Turning Robots Into “Adaptive, Learning Beings”

There are two trends in computers I have been highlighting in recent posts. First, the ability of computers to sense the world around them is advancing very quickly. Second, computers are rapidly getting better at understanding the information they take in and put it in context. Since nearly all of this is software based it is evolving fast and can be embedded into existing systems.

When I look at using computers to teach kids, I came up with an idea called a “smart toy”. Take the equivalent of a smart phone, embed it into a furry, cute robot body and you get a toy you can talk to and ask questions. Therefore, when I saw this story on Kurzweil AI I became excited.

Cambridge startup Neurala expects that its software for giving intelligence and autonomy to robots will part of commercial products by the end of the year, CEO and co-founder Max Versace said in an interview with Boston Business Journal.

The software aims to allow humans to control robots by telling them what to do, instead of operating them using remote control or programming for a specific task.

Neurala says its software aims to serve as the “brain” for robots, allowing them to process information sources and learn in a similar way to the human brain — ultimately enabling robots to work autonomously from humans.

F[i]rst commercial application: toys, followed by applications in the enterprise in 2014.

What they are describing is an adaptive learning system which is noteworthy itself, but see that last line? Toys. From the numbers I have seen online, parents in the US spend over $21 billion every year on toys (stats). I’ve also read that parents are willing to spend more on a toy if it contributes to learning (source).

There is a video about Neurala’s technology. Keep in mind it will get better very quickly.


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