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Humans have long been masters of dexterity, a skill that can largely be credited to the help of our eyes. Robots, meanwhile, are still catching up. Certainly there’s been some progress: for decades robots in controlled environments like assembly lines have been able to pick up the same object over and over again.

More recently, breakthroughs in computer vision have enabled robots to make basic distinctions between objects, but even then, they don’t truly understand objects’ shapes, so there’s little they can do after a quick pick-up.

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In a new paper, researchers from MIT’s Computer Science and Artificial Intelligence Laboratory (CSAIL), say that they’ve made a key development in this area of work: a system that lets robots inspect random objects, and visually understand them enough to accomplish specific tasks without ever having seen them before. (1)

Touch that object in front of you.

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I hear you... I hear you... YES, I see you!

It is not in front of you.

Is is not an «αντι-κείμενο» [En. “lying against you”] (Heidegger). It is part of you. You can never see or touch things which you don’t know. Feel it with your hand. This is not a table. This is your life. A glass of water. A cup of coffee. So tired. Children laughing. Calling you.

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You are getting up now.

Going inside to play.

Leaving the table.

Now you don’t see it.

It never existed.

A children’s smile. Your smile. Everything gone…