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Top Story

Research makes robots better at following spoken instructions

A new system based on research by computer scientists makes robots better at following spoken instructions, no matter how abstract or specific those instructions may be. The development, which was presented this week at the Robotics: Science and Systems 2017 conference in Boston, is a step toward robots that are able to more seamlessly communicate with human collaborators. Imagine someone in a warehouse working side-by-side with a robotic forklift. The person might say to the robotic partner, “Grab that pallet.” That’s a highly abstract command that implies a number of smaller sub-steps--lining up the lift, putting the forks underneath and hoisting it up. Different levels of abstraction can cause problems for current robot language models, the researchers say. This new research analyzes the language to infer a distinct level of abstraction.

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