"We want to develop robots that can naturally perform tasks alongside people."

Buddy Bot

Dieter Fox thinks cobots, a portmanteau for "collaborative robots," will be a fixture of our future. These bots will operate alongside people, acting as our coworkers, companions, and caretakers.

Fox also thinks he knows how to ensure the company he works for, NVIDIA, is the one leading this new era in robotics — and it all starts with an Ikea kitchen.

Kitchen Helper

In November, NVIDIA opened a new AI Robotics Research Lab in Seattle and appointed Fox as its head. The lab already has about a dozen projects in the works, but the main one focuses on teaching a robotic arm to navigate an Ikea kitchen.

"We want to develop robots that can naturally perform tasks alongside people," Fox said in a news release. "To do that, they need to be able to understand what a person wants to do and figure out how to help her achieve a goal."

Baby Steps

For now, those tasks are limited to fetching items from counters and placing them in drawers. Eventually, though, the robot's home economics curriculum could include everything from loading a dishwasher to cooking a meal.

However, as cool as it would be to have a bot serve as your sous-chef, NVIDIA's goal isn't simply to prepare robots for life in the kitchen.

"All of this is working toward enabling the next generation of smart manipulators that can also operate in open-ended environments where not everything is designed specifically for them," Fox said. "By pulling together recent advances in perception, control, learning, and simulation, we can help the research community solve some of the greatest challenges in robotics."

READ MORE: Our Seattle Forecast: Cloudy, With a 100% Chance of Robotics Innovation [NVIDIA]

More on robots: Watch the ISS’s New AI Robot Companion Act Like Kind of a Brat

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