In a move that will speed the development of all future robots, the collaboration and organization known as RoboEarth, has launched a shared neural network for robots that can be accessed free of charge. The cloud-based “robot brain” will allow human-serving robots to connect to databases on the network to update and download information that will make the robot instantly smarter.
RoboEarth.org is years of collaboration from scientists at five European universities that received funding of $5.4 million from the European Union for interrelated projects. This week scientists from Germany, Switzerland, and Spain met scientists from the Netherlands at Eindhoven Technical University to launch and demonstrate their cloud-based “Wikipedia” for robots.
The service allows robots and their programmers to connect to RoboEarth’s databases to download information that will update the robot’s brain to make it smarter. Instead of each robot developer or robot creating information from scratch, the free cloud-based service will allow a robot to talk to others and access updated information from the robot cloud to speed up the development of all robots in future.
The group demonstrated their work by having a robot named “Avi” scan the physical layout or a hospital room with a patient, a bed and a milk carton placed on a table. The information from Avi was then uploaded and shared to the robot cloud. RoboEarth then activated a second robot named “Amigo” to connect to the robot cloud and access the information recently uploaded from Avi. Amigo used Avi’s room-mapping information to locate and grasp the milk carton and deliver the milk to the patient’s bed.
Unfortunately this test did not end in total success as Amigo then dropped the milk to the floor after delivering it to the bed-ridden patient.
The RoboEarth system consists of a network of computers that will allow simpler robots to use the network’s computing power to calculate and compute more difficult tasks. These tasks would normally not be possible for the simpler robots but the RoboEarth network allows the robots to communicate and share information among themselves, access programming from other robot developers, and search the robot databases.
Gajan Mohanaraja is from the Zurich’s Swiss Federal Institute of Technology and one of the core developers of project RoboCloud that was launched in March 2013. Mohanaraja thinks that the future of cloud-computing and robotics looks very exciting. He thinks that this project will allow people to build very cheap and lightweight robots that will offload most of the computing to the robot cloud.
Mohanaraja demonstrated a robot he built with components that cost only $500. This miniature version of one of Google’s Street View vehicles can travel as far as its batteries will take it while scanning and uploading the mapping data to the robot cloud for other robots to access.
The Technical University in Munich’s, Sascha Griffiths, helped to develop the technology that interprets digitized human speech on the RoboCloud. Griffiths’ team still has a long way to go, but limited their first demonstration to requests that would be made by a hospital patient.
The programming on RoboEarth is free for any robots and their programmers to use and participation in the project is completely voluntary. The shared cloud-based robot brain is now available and will be speeding the development of all human-serving robots in the future.
By Brent Matsalla