Here’s why researchers are sending robots to preschool

Sep 03, 2015

Researchers at the University of California at Berkeley have created a preschool-like environment complete with LEGO blocks and model planes in which the sole student is a robot named Brett, Bloomberg reports.

"Brett" is an acronym for "Berkeley Robot for the Elimination of Tedious Tasks." The researchers are using the humanoid robot to do advanced artificial intelligence and computer learning research.

Brett learns through two types of technologies: deep learning and reinforcement learning. Deep learning helps Brett perceive the world around it and its own mechanical limbs. Reinforcement learning lets it improve its approach to tasks after failed attempts. While both of these technologies are often used in AI research, this is the first time they've been consolidated so strongly in a single machine.

The researchers' work could help improve operations in all sorts of industries. Many factory robots are taught only one task. If they're faced with a problem that can't be solved with that one skill, they shut down instead of figuring out a new solution, as Brett may be able to do.

Brett isn't the only modern example of robots moving one step closer to human beings. Researchers at the University of Cambridge recently created a "mother robot" that can mimic natural selection, for instance.

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