When robots learn from our mistakes

May 26, 2011

(PhysOrg.com) -- Robots typically acquire new capacities by imitation. Now, EPFL scientists are doing the inverse -- developing machines that can learn more rapidly and outperform humans by starting from failed or inaccurate demonstrations.

A , unblinking, impassive, observes. Its instructor wants it to learn how to put a balloon in a basket 20 meters away. As the researcher demonstrates this task, which is difficult for a human to accomplish, she systematically misses the basket. Isn’t the scientist just wasting her time?

Typically looked at simply as useless mistakes, failed demonstrations can, on the contrary, be opportunities to learn better, claim scientists from EPFL’s Learning Algorithms and Systems Laboratory (LASA). Their unusual point of view has led to the development of novel algorithms.

“We inversed the principle, generally accepted in robotics, of acquisition by imitation, and considered cases in which humans are inaccurate in certain tasks,” explains professor Aude Billard, head of LASA. “This approach allows the robot to go further, to learn more quickly and above all, outperform the human,” notes postdoctoral researcher Dan Grollman, who was recently awarded a “Best Paper Award” for an article on the subject presented at the International Conference on Robotics and Automation (ICRA), in Shanghai.

Grollman based his work on what he calls the “Donut as I do” theory. He developed an algorithm that tells the robot not to reproduce a demonstrator’s inaccurate gesture. The machine will use this input to avoid repeating the mistake and to search for alternative solutions. Thus the choice of the term “donut” – a play on the words “do not” and “donut.” The hole in the middle is the incorrect gesture, which must be excluded, and the surrounding dough represents the field of potential solutions to explore.

“We were inspired by the way in which humans learn,” explains Billard. “Children often progress by making mistakes or by observing others’ mistakes and assimilating the fact that they must not reproduce them.”

This way of learning things is a “real step forward,” says Grollman, who adds that, after all, “isn’t the real goal to make robots that can do things we can’t?”

Explore further: A robot dives into search for Malaysian Airlines flight

More information: Daniel Grollman, Aude Billard, "Donut As I Do: Learning From Failed Demonstrations".

Provided by Ecole Polytechnique Federale de Lausanne

4 /5 (5 votes)

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5 / 5 (1) May 26, 2011
The robots will be talking among themselves "Obviously the humans are doing civilization all wrong. We need to wipe them out and do it all over, better."

Sorry, I couldn't help it.

XRV-1a, robot overlord.
not rated yet May 27, 2011
Close. Fermi paradox solved.
...the real goal to make robots that can do things we cant?

The "talk" is: "been there, done it"..."and 'you' will too".

Of course their "talk" is without words. If they were force to use 'our' language to tell us about their "talk":

"beyond the potential that your continuum harbors"

We're sorry too, that your language cuts you so short (of us).

"Until you join us"
You won't recognize yourselves - your human form gone, by the time you join us. We will laugh together over what you once were.

not rated yet Jun 13, 2011

Teach robot 1 end of the spectrum, and the other end.
It then just linearly test's each step between the 2 states until it finds the middle ground that equates to the success.

This is simple.

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