Ramon Lopez de Mantaras, director of the Spanish National Research Council's Artificial Intelligence Research Institute (IIIA), is dubious of predictions that strong, human-like artificial intelligence (AI) is only a decade or two away. He says fundamental changes in computing hardware will be necessary before researchers can even begin to imagine creating AI that would come close to approximating human intelligence.
However, he says there also are more basic challenges that must be met first, such as determining how to imbue AI with a common-sense understanding about how the world works. In order to interact with the world effectively, robots and AI will need to be capable of understanding basic concepts, such as the fact that if you want to move an object attached to a rope, you need to pull and not push on the rope.
Lopez de Mantaras and his team at IIIA are working to develop this sort of AI common sense by teaching a robot how to play a music instrument called Reactable. Developed by the University of Pompeu Fabra in Barcelona, Reactable is played by manipulating various physical objects on a large, round multi-touch table. Developing the robot's capacity to learn how to play Reactable through trial and error will be crucial for enabling AI to learn other skills in the future.
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