If you can train a dog, you can train a robot. Well, that isn’t exactly true, but a team of researchers were able to teach a robot named SPOT to learn new tasks by using a method that may be familiar to anyone who has trained a dog.
Training a robot through positive reinforcement
Researchers taught a robot how to perform a set of tasks by using positive reinforcement: a commonly used dog training technique.
You may have used positive reinforcement to train your dog, even if you didn’t realize that’s what it was called. You tell your dog to sit — if he sits, he gets a treat. He learns that he gets a reward whenever he performs the desired action, so he sits on command.
The researchers used this same approach to teach a robot named SPOT new skills. The robot received numeric points instead of doggie treats, though.
SPOT earned points for stacking blocks, but received no points for reaching out without grabbing blocks or knocking over stacks of blocks. SPOT earned the highest amount of points for stacking the highest block on top of a stack of four blocks.
Because the robot wanted to earn the highest amount of points possible, it changed its behavior to increase its score. This resulted in SPOT learning how to build block towers.
Effective and efficient
Typically, robots are programmed to carry out a certain function or set of tasks. Robots don’t learn in the same way that people or dogs learn — from trial, error, and experiences. However, robots that can adapt and learn from real-world experiences would be very beneficial. It would allow for more versatile and useful robots that could adjust to changing situations and circumstances.
Not only was the positive reinforcement method effective, it was also fast. Teaching a robot to stack blocks (as opposed to specifically programming the robot to perform the task) can take weeks. This positive reinforcement training approach took days rather than weeks or months.
The team hopes that this research can help other types of robots learn to perform more complex tasks such as caring for the elderly, product assembly, and assisting in surgery.
Training a robot is cool, but training a dog is more fun
While it’s neat that you can apply the same techniques to train robots and dogs, you’d probably rather train a cute and cuddly puppy than a cold, lifeless robot. Puppies bring joy, happiness, and companionship into any home.
We raise Doodle puppies — including Goldendoodles, Bernedoodles, and Aussiedoodles — in Arkansas. All of our puppies leave for their new forever homes with a complete two-year health guarantee and a lifetime of support.