Sorting out garbage for recycling is not the coolest task in the world. Truth be told, every once in a while it gets a little lazy and that soda can ends up in the wrong place. Not to mention that sometimes we do not know if certain garbage can be recycled or not.
But there are already robots doing this for us. A prototype of Alphabet X's Everyday Robot project is learning to sort out the trash. And it is doing very well. The company claims its robots only put 5 percent of the waste in the wrong place. We humans have an error rate of 20%.
The idea of the Everyday Robot project is for robots to learn just by watching the world without anyone teaching them about every potential situation they might encounter. The learning will come from human demonstrations, experiments with other robots and simulation in the cloud environment.
It is an ambitious project to build a robot that can operate in different situations. Everyday Robot works so that robots can act in the human environment, where things change every day, people act in an unexpected way, and obstacles suddenly arise from anywhere. For now, prototypes only know how to sort out garbage, and it should be years before robots learn to operate in many different situations.
Today, robots are expensive and limited to performing very specific and specialized tasks. Having robots that operate safely and autonomously in complex and confusing environments is perhaps one of the great challenges of robotics.