At the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology in Zurich, scientists are building RoboEarth, a sort of Wikipedia for robots that will let them independently share instructions for tasks they've mastered. Needless to say, Oh shit!

Dr Markus Waibel, a RoboEarth researcher, explains that a lack of standardization is keeping robots isolated and largely ineffective at actually helping humans in day to day life. RoboEarth would be a communication system and database for robots to upload, exchange, and download knowledge on a variety of topics. It could teach them how to clean up, say, or how to set the table. The RoboEarth site outlines the scope of the project:

RoboEarth will include everything needed to close the loop from robot to RoboEarth to robot. The RoboEarth World-Wide-Web style database will be implemented on a Server with Internet and Intranet functionality. It stores information required for object recognition (e.g., images, object models), navigation (e.g., maps, world models), tasks (e.g., action recipes, manipulation strategies) and hosts intelligent services (e.g., image annotation, offline learning).

"They key," Dr. Waibel told the BBC, "is allowing robots to share knowledge. That's really new."


The four-year project is funded by the European Union and currently employing 35 researchers. So far, they've been successful in getting robots to upload updated maps of locations, download a handful of descriptions of tasks and execute them.

Now, I know, getting all alarmist about a robot uprising is kinda getting old at this point, but this does seem a little bit worrisome! Surely all sorts of protocols will be in place to prevent, you know, undesirable tasks from getting disseminated (from the "mess up my human owner's apartment!" robo-prank to the "tear my human owner limb from limb!" potentiality), but I'm still not sure I like the idea of my Roomba being able to download the knowledge of robot hivemind over my Wi-Fi connection. I've got torrents to download. [BBC via RoboEarth]