Documenting the Coming Singularity

Tuesday, September 02, 2008

Stanford's 'autonomous' helicopters teach themselves to fly - September 01, 2008

Stanford computer scientists have developed an artificial intelligence system that enables robotic helicopters to teach themselves to fly difficult stunts by watching other helicopters perform the same maneuvers. The result is an autonomous helicopter than can perform a complete airshow of complex tricks on its own.

The stunts are "by far the most difficult aerobatic maneuvers flown by any computer controlled helicopter," said Andrew Ng, the professor directing the research of graduate students Pieter Abbeel, Adam Coates, Timothy Hunter and Morgan Quigley.

The dazzling airshow is an important demonstration of "apprenticeship learning," in which robots learn by observing an expert, rather than by having software engineers peck away at their keyboards in an attempt to write instructions from scratch.

Stanford's artificial intelligence system learned how to fly by "watching" the four-foot-long helicopters flown by expert radio control pilot Garett Oku. "Garett can pick up any helicopter, even ones he's never seen, and go fly amazing aerobatics. So the question for us is always, why can't computers do things like this?" Coates said.

Video: Stanford's robotic helicopter performs stunts

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