Welcome to the Robot Remix news bulletin, where we share a summary of the week's need-to-know robotics and automation news.
In today's email -
- General AI & flexible robotics
- Air-powered cobots
- Venom is leaving the movie screens
- Did we need to give robots a sense of taste?
- Bipedal bots over the years
The Big Idea
General AI is on its way
General AI has always been a decade away- it’s one of our industry’s biggest tropes. This makes it very easy to overlook developments and become desensitised to progress. It’s worth considering Amara’s law which is particularly relevant to exponential technologies like AI –
“We overestimate the impact of technology in the short-term and underestimate the effect in the long run.”
There are several developments that should make us question where we are on the curve.
OpenAI released GPT -3 in 2020, GPT-3 is a natural language processing tool capable of a wide range of applications. Last week we spoke about DALL-E 2, a specialised version of GPT-3 capable of generating art from simple written descriptions. It’s pretty magical and shows that computers have the potential for creativity, something pundits have been doubtful of.
Another application of GPT-3 is OpenAi Codex, a “general-purpose programming model, meaning that it can be applied to essentially any programming task (though results may vary)”. This tool has been used to build calculators, to-do lists and even websites. Programs with the ability to write and improve their own code recursively are seen as one of the major milestones required for a general AI.
General Intelligence and flexible robots
This week DeepMind announced their new AI, Gato a scalable generalist agent that can beat humans in 600 diverse tasks without modification of the algorithm. These include Atari, following text instructions, captioning images and controlling a real robot arm.
Gato’s robotics experiments were motivated by the desire to develop a truly flexible robot picking system capable of adapting to new parts with minimum effort. Their approach involved pre-training the system in an offline environment before a short period of fine-tuning in a live environment. Gato was able to compete with more specialised algorithms in tasks such as stacking different shaped and coloured blocks. The system wasn’t perfect and they found that hardware and network architectures were limiting factors for real-time control. See the whitepaper for more details
The second biggest trope in AI is that once a task has been conquered it’s no longer AI and many have started to make the same claims with Gato. Whether we're edging towards a singularity or not, it's clear the shift towards general algorithims is going to develop how we develop robots.
Slimy superheroes- Scientists have recreated Marvel's Venom by creating a controllable slime robot. The robot combines non-newtonian fluids with magnets to create a goo capable of moving and manipulating objects.
Robot taste testers -We've seen robot chefs but thanks to the University of Cambridge, robots can finally taste too...
Space bots - Fascinating paper reviewing the use of robotics in space. If you're interested in this send us an email at email@example.com and we'll organise a Deep Dive with one of our contacts at the Satellite Applications Catapult.
Refilling robot - Okay.. we know it's not quite a robot. But Remix completed a project on this technology and we're glad to see green, refillable technologies gaining traction.
The evolution of walking Robots
No more hiding from Daleks at the top of stairs, robots are getting very good at walking like humans... This Reddit post charts their progress from 2009 to today and yes, they can probably dance better than us too.
Photo of the week
A sad delivery robot lost in the woods :(