A robot could learn not only that a cup is a container designed to hold liquids, and that the liquids can be poured into and out of it. The machine also would learn that people use cups to drink liquids, such as coffee or tea.
Cornell also noted that the system employs what computer scientists call structured deep learning, or information stored in many levels of abstraction. An easy chair, for example, is a member of the class of chairs, and going up another level, chairs are furniture. Sitting is something people do on a chair, but a human also can sit on a stool, a bench or the lawn.
"The Robo Brain will look like a gigantic, branching graph with abilities for multidimensional queries," said Aditya Jami, a visiting researcher at Cornell, in a statement. It might look something like a chart of relationships between Facebook friends but more on the scale of the Milky Way."
Only the four institutions involved in the work have access to Robo Brain, though Saxena said he hopes that within six months, that number should grow to 10. In two years, he hopes 100 institutions and companies will have access to it.
Sign up for CIO Asia eNewsletters.