Toshiba Takes Another Step to Ushering in Embodied AI

Embodied AI intends to bring the technology's decision making into the physical world
Toshiba's Cambridge Research Lab has announced two breakthroughs in Embodied AI alongside a new group to renew focus on the tech

Embodied AI technology takes a step forward as Toshiba's Cambridge Research Laboratory (CRL) is doubling down on its efforts on the game-changing technology. 

This comes after Toshiba's CRL announced its latest results from two papers at the high-impact computer science conference, Conference on Computer Vision and Pattern Recognition (CVPR) 2024 . 

In the announcement, it highlighted its two breakthroughs in simplified interaction through Natural Language Processing (NLP); fast adaptation to ensure efficient learning and generalisation capabilities across diverse scenarios, alongside a pledge to renew focus on Embodied AI.

By building on results from its previous Computer Vision Group and Speech Technology Group in 3D perception and human interaction, and creating a new Vision & Learning Group (VLG) and Language & Interaction Group (LIG) the group will now drive advancements towards its key objectives.

The lab has been given a £15 million investment from Toshiba to develop Embodied AI so it’s field ready in the next five years.

AI, although seemingly underpinning everything in this age, still hasn’t been effectively brought into physical domains, or to every industry. 

Fields such as logistics, maintenance and manufacturing cannot have all their needs fully addressed in cyberspace or using software alone. That’s what Embodied AI aims to address.

Examining Embodied AI

Embodied AI is an agent-based AI system that can manipulate objects and communicate with people, assisting in physical tasks. 

It learns interactively from users in its environment, adapts quickly, and continuously expands its capabilities. 

For example, Embodied AI plays an important role in reshaping the retail industry which has interaction in dynamic environments with ever-changing product offerings and customer demands. Fast adaptation enables a workforce that can intuitively deploy the power of physical AI to novel tasks through simple interaction. 

In a nutshell, Embodied AI is most crucial for applications like autonomous driving and robotics where an AI system needs to perceive and interact with the physical world in real-time. 

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Wayve, a startup that secured Europe's largest AI investment at US$1.05bn, highlight the commercial value of the technology. 

Difficulties in development of Embodied AI for the most part, remain three fold. Ensuring robust safety and reliability in the vast complexity of real-world environments is a monumental technical hurdle; substantial hardware requirements from advanced sensors to powerful computers also pose economic and scaling obstacles, and the immense real-world training data needs of embodied systems present significant operational and cost challenges in data collection compared to current web-scraped datasets. 

Toshiba's plan for the tech

Such is why Toshiba CRL is aiming to create AI systems that can rapidly adapt to new environments through interaction, while continuously learning and generalising knowledge across deployments. 

The research this lab will focus on is the enabling software, which can then be applied to versatile hardware and integrate intelligence from disparate systems. Yields of which will be incorporated into Toshiba existing AI catalogue, with its first industrial prototype of Embodied AI planned for presentation in 2027.

Toshiba currently has a wide portfolio of robotic solutions, including industrial robots and AMRs for factory and warehouse use. 

As Embodied AI continues to progress, it promises to usher in a new era of technology that will have a profound and more palpable impact on our daily lives. From household chores to self-driving cars and even industrial robots, Embodied AI will enable us to enhance our interaction with the physical world.


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