Robotics

A robot hand is a breakthrough for more capable AI

A robot hand rotates a cube with its fingers.
OpenAI's robot hand. Video: OpenAI

Researchers have created a robot hand that can flip a cube into specific positions, using human-like techniques it learned on its own over the course of 100 simulated years of training.

Why it matters: The algorithm behind the feat has a surprising backstory: It previously trained AI agents to play Dota 2, a complex multiplayer video game. Using it again for a very different task is a leap over today’s algorithms, which can generally only do one thing well.

Flashback: When AI paid chump change

Photo: Hulton Archive/Getty

Now that AI's brightest minds earn six- and seven-figure salaries, it's worth remembering that the field didn't always command the big bucks. I was reminded of this last week on stumbling over reactions to a famous 18-year-old Wired essay by computer pioneer Bill Joy.

What's going on: As in all other work, AI salaries are a function of supply and demand — there are relatively few genuine AI researchers, and extremely high demand for them. Ph.D. salaries could return to Earth if the fever diminishes — if, for example, investors sour on AI.