Robots with truly humanlike dexterity are far from becoming reality, but progress accelerated by AI has brought us closer to achieving this vision than ever before. In a research paper published in September, a team of scientists at Google detailed their tests with a robotic hand that enabled it to rotate Baoding balls with minimal training data. And at a computer vision conference in June, MIT researchers presented their work on an AI model capable of predicting the tactility of physical things from snippets of visual data alone. Now, OpenAI -- the San Francisco-based AI research firm cofounded by Elon Musk and others, with backing from luminaries like LinkedIn cofounder Reid Hoffman and former Y Combinator president Sam Altman -- says it's on the cusp of solving something of a grand challenge in robotics and AI systems: solving a Rubik's cube. Unlike breakthroughs achieved by teams at the University of California, Irvine and elsewhere, which leveraged machines tailor-built to manipulate Rubik's cubes with speed, the approach devised by OpenAI researchers uses a five-fingered humanoid hand guided by an AI model with 13,000 years of cumulative experience -- on the same order of magnitude as the 40,000 years used by OpenAI's Dota-playing bot.
Last year we were amazed by the level of dexterity achieved by OpenAI's Dactyl system which was able to learn how to manipulate a cube block to display any commanded side/face.If you missed that article, read about it here. OpenAI then set themselves a harder task of teaching the robotic hand to solve a Rubik's cube. Quite a daunting task made no easier by the fact that it would use one hand which most humans would find it hard to do. OpenAI harnessed the power of neural networks which are trained entirely in simulation. However, one of the main challenges faced was to make the simulations as realistic as possible because physical factors like friction, elasticity etc. are very hard to model.
OpenAI, the research company that conducts artificial intelligence research was able to train a pair of neural networks to solve the Rubik's Cube using a robotic hand. In a blog post announcing the achievement, OpenAI said the neural networks were trained in simulation, relying on the OpenAIFive code paired with Automatic Domain Randomization, which is a new technique the firm developed. "Human hands let us solve a wide variety of tasks. For the past 60 years of robotics, hard tasks which humans accomplish with their fixed pair of hands have required designing a custom robot for each task. As an alternative, people have spent many decades trying to use general-purpose robotic hardware, but with limited success due to their high degrees of freedom.,"
Last week, on the third floor of a small building in San Francisco's Mission District, a woman scrambled the tiles of a Rubik's Cube and placed it in the palm of a robotic hand. The hand began to move, gingerly spinning the tiles with its thumb and four long fingers. Each movement was small, slow and unsteady. But soon, the colors started to align. Four minutes later, with one more twist, it unscrambled the last few tiles, and a cheer went up from a long line of researchers watching nearby.