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Robots Learning To Do WHAT By Watching YouTube?

I forget which one of Isaac Asimov‘s laws of robotics covered the concept of robots preparing food for us, but it seems that we now live in an age where scientists are dead set on giving robots the type of cognitive skills necessary to do even the most mundane tasks.

Like making salads.

Time Magazine reports today that a robot–looking like something straight out of Tony Stark’s laboratory–not only learned how to make a salad, but that it learned how to do so by watching YouTube.

It’s like people!

The article states that the robots were able to learn how to prepare a salad through the use of a pattern recognition software designed by the team at the University of Maryland’s interdisciplinary robots team (is it just me, or is this a terribly named department?). The software then allowed the robot to sift through a series of YouTube videos of people making salads to learn the steps, ranging from cutting vegetables to tossing the ingredients.

One area that still seems to be a problem for the robots: pouring dressing.

Turns out the robot can raise a container full of dressing around with ease, but that it still doesn’t have complete control over it’s movement or a concept of how much dressing is too much (come on robot, i ordered a salad, not an Italian dressing-flavored soup. thanks!).

As of now, the robot named Julia (after Julia Child, ‘natch) can make a mean tomato salad, fruit salad, and tuna salad, but that it’s still working to master adding things like feta cheese and oils for more complex salads.

For more background about the science behind the robot’s amazing movement, check out a clip of the Maryland researchers who are leading the charge to make curbside salad-making waiters obsolete in the video below: