This Clairvoyant Robot Can See the Future

Tuesday, 05 December 2017 - 10:59AM
Tuesday, 05 December 2017 - 10:59AM
This Clairvoyant Robot Can See the Future
Image credit: YouTube
In Douglas Adams' novel The Restaurant at the End of the Universe, it's suggested that advanced AI elevators will be imbued with a degree of psychic ability.

In order to be on the correct floor at the correct time to save people from having to push buttons and wait around, elevators are able to predict the future, knowing where they'll need to be next on their journey up and down a multi-story building.

While Adams' work is intended as a comedy, it turns out that this isn't too crazy of an idea, after all.

Researchers at the University of Berkeley have developed a robot that is capable of making educated guesses about what will happen in the immediate future, based on calculations made by analyzing previous interactions between different objects.

This is machine learning at its most complex—the robot was given an opportunity to play around with a series of objects over a full week, as it poked, prodded, and tested all of the items placed before it, in order to learn what kind of materials they were made of, and how they behaved in different situations.

Then, the robot was given a specific instruction to move an object, and it proved able to correctly intuit what would happen when it tried using its claw arm to push the object 90 percent of the time. From these predictions, the robot is also capable of adjusting its actions to better achieve its intended results.

What's really interesting is that, in addition to guessing what will happen to an object based on previous experience, the computer is also capable of providing a visual simulation of its predictions that looks surprisingly realistic. This technology is really only in its infancy right now, but the robot is able to create an image that shows the future.

The robot is even able to provide visual representations of several different possible futures, allowing scientists to see how the robot is making its decisions, and providing a tiny glimpse into the branching pathways of probability that accompany every decision the robot makes.

There are two major breakthroughs associated with robots that can predict the future.

Firstly, this is going to be important for future technology in which robots move and act in an unpredictable space, outside of laboratory confines. Instead of needing to teach a robot to avoid all possible hazards while walking around or driving a car, the bot can be given a series of examples of hazards that exist, so that it can generate its own clairvoyant predictions of what action might be needed to avoid a particular roadblock or danger.

Secondly, if robots are able to learn for themselves about how to move objects, navigate spaces, or function in the real world, they'll be better poised to learn flexible problem-solving. They'll be capable of analyzing and experimenting with new stimuli when it's presented to them, allowing them to better process things that they haven't been specifically programmed to handle.

This kind of technology is already being used in some medical fields, where a robot can use its familiarity with symptoms to help predict what potential outcomes will arise from a patient's particular ailments, lumps, or even brain patterns.

So, that being the case, here's an important prediction for the future: once this technology gets sophisticated enough, someone is definitely going to want to plug it into the stock market to predict future trends. This kind of computerized analysis is already common in shares trading, but it's only going to get more common as this technology reaches the point where robots can accurately predict which stock is going to rise before it even shows the first hint of movement.

This will no doubt make people a lot of money, but here's hoping that, in the meantime, someone gets to work on making Douglas Adams' vision of psychic elevators a reality. Waiting endlessly for a ride up a tall building might soon be a thing of the past.
This Clairvoyant Robot Can See the Future