Helping robots see the big picture

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Science  10 Oct 2014:
Vol. 346, Issue 6206, pp. 186-187
DOI: 10.1126/science.346.6206.186

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Robots are clumsy because they struggle to make sense of all the data coming in from their cameras. Although machines easily surpass human ability for certain constrained visual tasks, such as identifying a face among thousands of passport photos, they flounder in the everyday human environment. Two years ago, a powerful new computational technique called deep learning took the field of machine vision by storm. Inspired by how the brain processes visual information, a computer first learns the difference between everyday objects by creating a recipe of visual features for each. Those visual recipes are now incorporated into smart phone apps, stationary computers, and robots, giving them the capability to recognize what is in their environment. But roboticists worry that deep learning can't give machines the other visual abilities needed to make sense of the world—they need to understand the 3D nature of the objects and learn new ones quickly on the fly—so researchers are already looking beyond deep learning for the next big advance.

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