RoboEarth, an Internet hive-mind that will allow robots to share with and learn from each other, is being tested for the first time at Eindhoven University of Technology in the Netherlands.
The European Union spent the last four years funding RoboEarth, which developers from electronics manufacturer Philips and five European universities hope will eventually allow humans and robots to upload information to a cloud database that will serve as a brain hub for all machines connected.
The technology’s first test put four robots connected to RoboEarth in a mock hospital room, with one robot mapping the room and sharing it with the other robots while they served drinks to patients.
By giving robots access to a common brain that continually learns, developers hope to constantly expand robots’ usefulness and capabilities, since they’re typically built at large expense for one single, repetitive task. They’ll also be able to adapt to changing environments wherever they may be deployed.
“At its core RoboEarth is a world wide web for robots: a giant network and database repository where robots can share information and learn from each other,” RoboEarth project leader Rene van de Molengraft told BBC News.
“A task like opening a box of pills can be shared on RoboEarth, so other robots can also do it without having to be programmed for that specific type of box,” Molengraft said.
Experts believe robots will be in the homes of consumers within 10 years.
“In the short term, RoboEarth adds security by building in a single point of failure for all participating robots,” Author James Barrat said of the new technology. Barrat is known for writing about the dangers of robots gaining sentience.
“In the longer term, watch out when any of the nodes can evolve or otherwise improve their own software. The consequences of sharing that capability with the central ‘mind’ should be explored before it happens,” Barrat said.