Before robots can take over the world, they need to learn the fundamentals of a task. This recent article from MIT gives us an appreciation for how difficult the basics can be.
In order to tackle the problem of screwing in screws, a team of researchers had to understand the model the forces that humans use to successfully complete the task; learn how humans solve the problem of cam-outs (screwdriver becomes detached from the screw and slips); understand the dynamics of forces humans use change grip as the task progresses; equip a robot to hold a screwdriver; get the robot to hold the screw; and use computer vision to evaluate the screw-socket spatial relationship.
Screwing is just one component of assembly, and it’s a great example of a basic skill upon which more complex skills can be built.
What other basic skills can you think of that a robot might need before it can do more complex tasks?