Robots learn the magic touch

‘Feeling’ robots could outperform those solely dependent on vision systems

Future generations of robots could well ‘feel’ their way around, rather than depend on vision systems and programming. According to Professor Daniel Wolpert, from the University of Cambridge Department of Engineering: “Tactile sensing is likely to be far more important than vision for robotics. I really believe that. Blind people can do a lot.” Addressing a recent ‘Horizon’ seminar on ‘The Thinking Machine’, he pointed out: “Deep Blue can beat Gary Kasparov at chess; a five-year-old can place chess pieces on the board more efficiently and accurately than the best possible robot.” He has therefore been engaged in studies of how humans learn to do such things and then “reverse engineer the human motor system”. This is more difficult than it was once thought to be, taking into account the complex make-up of both the human body and mind, with its 700 trillion neuron connections.