Well, well, well. They were more than happy to take all of our best assembly line and theme park greeter jobs, but now — thanks to researchers at MIT — the robots of the world have learned how to ask humans for help. Soon they'll be pleading with the creators they've vowed to replace, in plain English, for assistance with tasks they just can't seem to master on their own.
Furthering the idea of robots building Ikea furniture — a task that's been shown to befuddle humans too — the team at MIT taught a pack of KUKA's youBots to not only realise when they've failed at a task, but to also determine if they actually have any chance of succeeding. If the answer is no, they can ask a human for help, specifying what needs to get done, and what robot needs assistance.
The research not only gives humans a (much needed) increased sense of superiority over our mechanical creations, it's also vital to developing robots that can handle multiple tasks in a given setting. If the old approach was used to assemble an Ikea table, for example, it would probably require a small army of automatons. Now it just needs one as long as we do its bidding — hey, wait a minute! [MIT via IEEE Spectrum]