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Robo Brain: New robot learning basic skills from YouTube

Humans can pretty much learn anything on the Internet, given enough time, but now it seems robots will also have the ability to learn from the vast pool of useful and pointless information available on the web. At least that's what a group of American researchers are hoping, having developed a robotic "brain" that can gather new skills by browsing the Internet.

Robo Brain began to process information from the Internet last month, and researchers behind the project say it is currently working its way through a billion images, 120,000 YouTube videos and 100 million instruction documents and appliance manuals.

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"If a robot encounters a situation it hasn't seen before, it can query Robo Brain in the cloud," said Ashutosh Saxena, one of the researchers from Cornell University. The idea was to create a huge source of information that robots could call on to perform tasks around the house or at work.

Researchers say Robo Brain is capable of much more, not only recognising objects, but also understanding how they are used, as well as understanding human language and behaviour.

You can track the progress of the Robo Brain on its official website, and discover some of the knowledge it has already acquired.

It looks like it's well on the way to becoming a fully fledged member of the office, having learnt how to work a toaster, control a water fountain and manipulate a hole punch. But most importantly, it can recognise that someone is watching TV, and will know not to get in the way.

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The project is a collaboration between the US universities of Cornell, Brown, Stanford and California, and has support from the likes of Google and Microsoft.

Back in February, IBM revealed that its supercomputer Watson is currently being used as a source of information for medical researchers.