Skip to Content
Artificial intelligence

Robots won’t make it into our houses until they get common sense

AI’s big advances have so far relied on algorithms that train on huge piles of data. If robots are going to work in the real world, that will have to change.
March 25, 2019
Jeremy portje

Artificial intelligence has made tremendous progress in areas like image and speech recognition, largely by training the machines on large sets of labeled data. But robots that have to navigate the real world face unique challenges. As a result, robots are still largely limited to highly structured environments like factories, where they perform repetitive tasks.

Sergey Levine, an assistant professor in electrical engineering at UC Berkeley, says that if robots are ever going to find their way into homes and our broader daily lives, they need to teach themselves the common sense that would let them navigate unknown and unstructured environments.

Speaking at MIT Technology Review’s EmTech Digital conference in San Francisco, Levine gave several examples of robots making remarkable progress in teaching themselves how to navigate the world without labeled data or human supervision. In one recent example, a quadrupedal robot used an AI technique called deep reinforcement learning to learn how to “walk” after only two hours.

How long before robots are capable enough to live in our homes? Hard to predict, says Levine. In the near term, however, he sees them being increasingly used in various delivery tasks and in places such as hospitals for tasks like making beds.

Deep Dive

Artificial intelligence

AI for everything: 10 Breakthrough Technologies 2024

Generative AI tools like ChatGPT reached mass adoption in record time, and reset the course of an entire industry.

What’s next for AI in 2024

Our writers look at the four hot trends to watch out for this year

OpenAI teases an amazing new generative video model called Sora

The firm is sharing Sora with a small group of safety testers but the rest of us will have to wait to learn more.

Google’s Gemini is now in everything. Here’s how you can try it out.

Gmail, Docs, and more will now come with Gemini baked in. But Europeans will have to wait before they can download the app.

Stay connected

Illustration by Rose Wong

Get the latest updates from
MIT Technology Review

Discover special offers, top stories, upcoming events, and more.

Thank you for submitting your email!

Explore more newsletters

It looks like something went wrong.

We’re having trouble saving your preferences. Try refreshing this page and updating them one more time. If you continue to get this message, reach out to us at customer-service@technologyreview.com with a list of newsletters you’d like to receive.