MIT researchers are working on something that really changes life: robots that roll dough. It’s not just about making pizza, but maybe someday in the near future, you could have one of the most advanced AIs to date preparing your food. Could a robot really replace the extraordinary pizza-turning ability of our own meat-bag professionals?
The project, called DiffSkill, is still in its early stages. While the MIT News report observes, it is not so easy to teach a robot to work with a deformable object. That’s because the subject is always changing in shape and consistency, so the neural network needs to adapt quickly.
right now, it’s it takes enough time for the AI to learn an immutable assault courselet alone follow along as the task changes before it.
Of course, we have self-driving cars that can adapt to the environment as it changes, so it’s not an entirely impossible task. And at least there’s less risk involved in designing a robot that just cuts and rolls the dough, but it’s still a task that comes with its fair share of obstacles.
It involves two stages: a ‘teacher’ algorithm first lays out the steps required for the task, before a ‘student’ machine learning model turns those steps into reality, learning abstractly about when and how each step should be performed.
An author of the DiffSkill research paper, Yunzhu Li, explains “This method is closer to how we humans plan our actions.” We have a top-level planner that tells us roughly what the stages are and some of the intermediate goals we need to achieve along the way, and then we execute them.”
Li’s co-author Xingyu Lin notes that “Our framework provides a new way for robots to acquire new skills. These skills can then be chained together to solve more complex tasks that are beyond the capability of previous robotic systems.”
Basically, it’s not about making pizza faster. The aim of the project was to reduce the time it takes for AI to learn complex tasks, and it appears to have been successful. But anyone who’s ever made a pizza knows there’s more to it than just cutting and rolling. There is a certain amount of love and care that goes into him. The art of kneading and turning dough to perfection is something people spend years learning.
What is a little concerning is that the report suggests the method could be applied to other tasks involving robots that need to “manipulate deformable objects”. The example given? “A caretaker robot that feeds, bathes or dresses someone who is elderly or has a disability.”
First of all, I’ve never heard of seniors referred to as a ‘deformable object’ before.
And while it’s impressive how we’re entering an era where neural networks can learn such complex and adaptive tasks, it’s a little worrisome. Particularly after checking out some of the wacky gifs of him ‘in working’, the idea of entrusting our seniors to the care of robots, no matter how smart they are, is at the very least terrifying.
Of course, I’m all for the robotics revolution. I just hope the neural network hits the test dummies right before unleashing it on our most vulnerable.