Robots Go Back to School With Robo Brain


Robots will join kids nationwide in going back to school, powered by Robo Brain, announced Cornell University researchers in July 2014. Robo Brain represents a dynamic advance in robotic learning science that takes robotkind one step closer to Star Trek: The Next Generation’s android Commander Data’s dream of mirroring humanity. Robot education will take place in an online classroom driven by Cloud technology that creates a network of instructive connections to drive the training ground. The new Internet-based database gives robots access to a vast array of resources for learning human language and behavior that will allow them to more effectively work side-by-side with humans in every arena of life.

Cornell researchers explain that Robo Brain makes use of “structured deep learning” that stores information collected from millions of online images, videos, documents and manuals in a massive-scale brain network. Automatons can connect to the directories as needed to school themselves in the social savvy and common sense needed to interact naturally with humans. An interactive website allows the robots to benefit from refinements by many teachers, as guests can go into the Robo Brain school knowledge base to back fill any holes they find in robotic education.

The learning system aims to teach robotic students not only object classification by observation of key features, but also common sense knowledge of form and function,  as well as fundamental understanding of the way things work and human behavior. Serving food and drinks and finding keys, along with conversational etiquette, musical appreciation and performance, dancing and more are on the syllabus of robot education. Cooperative learning is also part of the curriculum as developers at Cornell designed the system so that robots can share knowledge and learn from one another, as well as from observation and experience, just like human students.

Funded and supported through organizations dedicated to scientific innovation in robotics such as the National Robotics Initiative, the National Science Foundations, Army and Navy Research offices, Qualcomm, Google, Microsoft and the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation, the Robo Brain project network resembles the labyrinth of relational connections on social media on a galactic scale. Designers have worked tirelessly putting together a vast array of electronic information from the Internet and digital simulations for the electronic database. They also run countless trials with robots in real-life situations before rolling out the ground-breaking technology to the public.

With the Robo Brain debut, ongoing concerns about the mechanized counterparts’ ability to effectively adapt to working side-by-side with humans in the workplace take a back burner to the potential to school the mechanical creatures in competent and useful work habits and social skills. Going forward, MIT assistant professor of Aeronautics and Astronautics, Julie Shah and Steve Derby, co-director at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute’s Flexible Manufacturing Center foresee robotic assistance in factories and hospital operating rooms as the wave of the future. The Robo Brain launch sets in motion an evolution in robotic design that catalyzes the realization of a practical partnership between robots and humans and brings to life the sci-fi dreams of many hopeful visionaries.


By Tamara Christine Van Hooser