Teaching Robots to Play Before Putting Them to Work

by Braden Kelley

Teaching Robots to Play Before Putting Them to Work

Recently I had the opportunity to attend Siemens ConneCTs 2018 in Princeton, New Jersey, an event billed as a science fair for adults with a theme this year of AI & the Rise of Autonomous Systems.

Dr. Kurt Bettenhausen, the Senior Vice President of Corporate Technology for Siemens US, opened the event and introduced a future of manufacturing automation challenge they were embarking upon with Princeton University.

At the core of the challenge is a pair of robot arms developed by researchers at Siemens that, with the help of artificial intelligence and machine learning, can manufacture products without having to be programmed. The robot’s arms autonomously divide tasks and work together as one and have the ability to detect when the work product has shifted out of the expected position and to adjust the performance of subsequent manufacturing steps.

To help advance the research and the technology towards increased capabilities and commercial application, Siemens has tasked Princeton with a test case that’s a little more fun than your typical proof of concept. The goal?

Teach the robots how to autonomously assemble a Lego Technic kit with 3,000+ pieces that would take a human 1,000+ manual steps to assemble.

Curious what Lego Technic kit the robot gets to try and figure out how to autonomously build?

The Porsche 911 GT3 RS…

If you’d like to see what is in this kit and just how complicated the construction of a kit like this might be for a mere mortal, let alone an autonomous robot, check out this unboxing video from Lego:

And, what if the robot is successful at autonomously building the Porsche 911 GT3 RS?

Well, the answer is that the robot will get to build the Lego Technic Bugatti Chiron, which has even more pieces and even more manual steps than the Porsche 911 GT3 RS. If you’re not a car aficionado and you’re curious what that one looks like, check out this crazy video that shows how Lego made a life size working version of the Bugatti Chiron out of Lego Technic elements (well, at least 90% of it):

The Lego Technic team spent over 13,000 person hours and over 1 million Lego Technic elements on building the car. Without glue! Amazing!

That’s a lot of human power. Imagine if robots could perform all of that effort 24/7?

Well, maybe some day in the near future it will be possible for autonomous robots from Siemens and others to do so!

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Full disclosure: Siemens paid my travel expenses for me to attend this event

Image credit: Siemens

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About The Author

Braden Kelley is a popular innovation speaker, builds sustainable innovation cultures, and tools for creating successful change. He is the author of the five-star book Stoking Your Innovation Bonfire and the creator of a revolutionary new Change Planning Toolkit™. Follow him on Twitter (@innovate) and Linkedin.

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