Training interactive robots may one day be an easy job for everyone, even those without programming expertise. Roboticists are developing automated robots that can learn new tasks solely by observing humans. At home, you might someday show a domestic robot how to do routine chores. In the workplace, you could train robots like new employees, showing them how to perform many duties.
Making progress on that vision, MIT researchers have designed a system that lets these types of robots learn complicated tasks that would otherwise stymie them with too many confusing rules. One such task is setting a dinner table under certain conditions.
At its core, the researchers’ “Planning with Uncertain Specifications” (PUnS) system gives robots the humanlike planning ability to simultaneously weigh many ambiguous — and potentially contradictory — requirements to reach an end goal. In doing so, the system always chooses the most likely action to take, based on a “belief” about some probable specifications for the task it is supposed to perform.
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