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Robots Able to Learn by Observation

Researchers at the Faculty of Engineering have succeeded in creating robots that can learn new tasks simply by watching a person perform them. This makes the robots far more flexible and might make it easier to use robots within the industry.

Normally, it takes an engineer a great deal of hours to programme a robot to perform a task. But now researchers at the Faculty of Engineering have succeeded in creating a new system by which the robot is taught what to do by an employee. Subsequently, the robot recalls the movements and repeats them.

- We have developed a system which is capable of learning from humans. With this unique system, we provide employees in the industry, with the opportunity to programme the robot themselves. It ensures the flexibility of the robot and makes them less expensive to utilize, says Assistant Professor Thiusius Rajeeth Savarimuthu from the Maersk Mc-Kinney Moller Institute.

The robot observes, recalls and learns
The project is part of a three-year-old European research project named IntellAct. Instead of writing numerous lines with programming codes, the system ensures that the robot can learn simply by observing a human.
- The robot is equipped with several cameras which can follow human movements and then it encodes how to perform the task, says Thiusius Rajeeth Savarimuthu.

Faster movements
The system also ensures that the robots are capable of improving every time they perform a task. The researchers observed that the first time a robot was to gather some blocks it took 40 seconds. The second time around, the robot was twice as fast. This time it only took 20 seconds.
- The robot is capable of improving its abilities. This means that every time it performs a task, the robot gradually becomes quicker. Which means that it becomes better over time, says Thiusius Rajeeth Savarimuthu.

The researchers’ results may transform the workplaces within the industry significantly. The research project will now be further developed in cooperation with small and medium sized enterprises, but ultimately, the flexible robots will ensure that it no longer will be profitable to move industrial jobs to low-wage countries.

For additional information contact
Thiusius Rajeeth Savarimuthu, phone: 6550 9586 / trs@mmmi.sdu.dk  
Norbert Krüger, phone: 2778 7483 / Norbert@mmmi.sdu.dk  

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