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Toyota is using VR to train robots as in-home helpers

The VR training system allows human teachers to train robots on arbitrary tasks.
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Home robots could make all of our lives easier, and perhaps most importantly, they could allow seniors to live more independently. But training robots to operate in homes is difficult because each home is unique and filled with so many objects in different combinations and layouts. Toyota Research Institute (TRI) may have a solution: using virtual reality to change the way we train robots.

The VR training system allows human teachers to see what the robot is seeing live, in 3D, from its sensors. The teacher can instruct the robot and annotate the 3D scene, for instance adding a note on how to grasp a handle. This allows human trainers to teach robots arbitrary tasks with a variety of objects, instead of specific tasks like they would perform in a more controlled setting.

TRI's system allows the robots to be more flexible. They don't require a complete map of the house. Instead, they only need to understand the objects that are relevant to a behavior being performed. And thanks to fleet learning, once one robot is trained in a task, they all learn it.

The system isn't perfect yet. In its video, TRI reminds viewers that it creates research prototypes, not product concepts. Still, the VR-based system could change the way robots learn and how we're able to use them in different settings.

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