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A detailed virtual house will help robots train to become your butler

A new digital training ground that replicates an average home lets AI learn how to do simple chores like slicing apples, making beds, or carrying drinks in a low-stakes environment.

Background: We all want a robot to run around our home and fetch us a beer. But teaching them to do it in the real world is expensive, because they’re still clumsy and make tons of mistakes.

Virtual beer fetching: So researchers have turned to training AI in virtual settings. Typically those spaces are video games like Doom or Grand Theft Auto. But IEEE Spectrum reports a new training ground, called AI2-THOR, lets AI interact with objects like refrigerators and furniture in something like the real world.

Why it matters: Think of all the unbroken glassware. Beyond saving time and money, AI2-THOR could teach AIs skills that are genuinely useful. Exploring the relatively complex, messy settings that humans inhabit could let AI learn more as we do, too.