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Robots learn to read the writing on the wall

Robots learn to read the writing on the wall

New Scientist

Image: Photocapy

Ingmar Posner wants to develop robots that can see through walls. Not by equipping them with X-ray specs or specialised radar technology, but simply by teaching them to read.

“By reading a label on a closed door you can sometimes get a good idea of what can be found behind it,” says Posner, a roboticist at the University of Oxford. “Reading can help you detect things you cannot directly see.”

Roboticists have spent years teaching their robots a range of skills to help them get by in the real world. Robots have learned to map their surroundings and to pick up and manipulate cumbersome objects. Some have evenshown signs of becoming self-aware. But, remarkably, they remain illiterate.

With the written word so prevalent in the human world – from road signs to shop names – a non-reading robot trying to prove its worth is placed at a severe disadvantage, says Paul Newman, who works alongside Posner. Along with Peter Corke at the Queensland University of Technology in Brisbane, Australia, the team are trying to help robots level the playing field. Read more…