Robot Image
The new training technique uses positive reinforcement to teach a robot to stack blocks. (Photo: Will Kirk/Johns Hopkins University)

With a training technique commonly used to teach dogs to sit and stay, computer scientists showed a robot how to teach itself several new tricks including stacking blocks. With the method, the robot was able to learn in days what typically takes a month.

By using positive reinforcement – an approach familiar to anyone who’s used treats to change a dog’s behavior – the team improved the robot’s skills. The ability to learn from mistakes in all types of situations is critical for designing a robot that could adapt to new environments.