The Robotics Roundup is a weekly newspost going over some of the most exciting developments in robotics over the past week.
In today’s edition we have:
- All the Robots We Met At CES 2024, in One Place
- Google wrote a ‘Robot Constitution’ to make sure its new AI droids won’t kill us
- Indy Autonomous Challenge announces new racecar and additional races
- Toyota’s Robots Are Learning to Do Housework—By Copying Humans
- How Smart Should Robots Be?
The CES 2024 tech show in Las Vegas featured a variety of robots. Samsung’s Ballie, a companion and security robot equipped with a built-in projector, was one of the highlights. There’s no price or release date for it yet. Samsung also showcased the Bespoke Jet Bot Combo, a handy cleaning robot. Ogmen Robotics introduced the Oro Dog Companion, a robot designed to look after your dog and priced at $799. Lenovo displayed its Magic Bay Robot, a potential personal assistant still in the early stages of development. Lastly, the Yarbo robot, designed for outdoor tasks like shoveling and leaf-blowing, was introduced at a base cost of $4,499, with add-ons ranging from $1,499 to $2,459
The DeepMind robotics team has announced three new technological advances designed to improve robot decision-making. The first involves AutoRT, a data gathering system that uses a visual language model (VLM) and large language model (LLM) to understand environments and decide on the appropriate tasks. The system also applies a “Robot Constitution,” influenced by Isaac Asimov’s “Three Laws of Robotics,” to prevent the robot from engaging in tasks that could harm humans or animals. For further safety, robots are programmed to stop if joint force exceeds a certain limit and they come equipped with a physical kill switch. Google tested 53 AutoRT robots in different office buildings over seven months, performing over 77,000 trials. The other two advances include SARA-RT, a neural network architecture that improves the accuracy and speed of the existing Robotic Transformer RT-2, and RT-Trajectory, which equips robots with 2D outlines to better perform specific tasks.
The Indy Autonomous Challenge (IAC) announced at CES 2024 that it will present four autonomous racecar events this year and unveiled an updated technology stack. The year’s first event, IAC@CES, occurred during CES at the Las Vegas Motor Speedway. Other events will take place at the Milano Monza Open-Air Motor Show in Milan, Italy, the Goodwood Festival of Speed in the UK, and the Indy Motor Speedway. The newly introduced autonomous racecar, the AV24, features a redesigned sensor, networking, and compute stack to enable university teams to further enhance their AI driver algorithms. The AV24’s standout feature is its split braking controls, which allow the AI drivers to manage the braking of all four wheels of the vehicle independently.
Toyota is developing robots that can learn household chores by observing human actions. During a demonstration at the Toyota Research Lab, a visitor performed a cleaning task using a teleoperated robot, which subsequently replicated the task on its own after additional demonstrations and practice. Most robots follow preprogrammed routines and struggle with adaptive tasks like household chores. Toyota’s approach uses a machine-learning system called a diffusion policy, developed in collaboration with Stanford’s Robot Lab, which determines the robot’s next action based on multiple data sources. Toyota also aims to combine this with language models like ChatGPT, so robots can learn tasks by watching videos, potentially turning platforms like YouTube into training resources. Toyota’s ultimate goal is to build robots that can aid the aging population in maintaining independent lifestyles.
Boston Dynamics has endowed its robot dog “Spot” with ChatGPT, joining the ranks of socially interactive robots. These robots, equipped with AI, are designed to perform tasks, teach, entertain, and potentially love us. However, there are concerns about accuracy, misinformation, and ethical considerations for the use of AI in these robots.