Google has demonstrated its first vision-language-action (VLA) model for robot control that showed improved generalization capabilities and semantic and visual understanding beyond the robotic data it was exposed to.

This includes interpreting new commands and responding to user commands by performing rudimentary reasoning, such as reasoning about object categories or high-level descriptions.

The Robotic Transformer 2 (RT-2) is a novel vision-language-action (VLA) model that learns from both web and robotics data, and translates this knowledge into generalized instructions for robotic control, according to Google DeepMind.

A traditional robot can pick up a ball and stumble when picking up a cube.

RT-2’s flexible approach enables a robot to train on picking up a ball and can figure out how to adjust its extremities to pick up a cube or another toy it’s never seen before.

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“We also show that incorporating chain-of-thought reasoning allows RT-2 to perform multi-stage semantic reasoning, like deciding which object could be used as an improvised hammer (a rock), or which type of drink is best for a tired person (an energy drink),” said the DeepMind team.

The latest model builds upon Robotic Transformer 1 (RT-1) which was trained on multi-task demonstrations.

The team performed a series of qualitative and quantitative experiments on RT-2 models, on over 6,000 robotic trials.

“Across all categories, we observed increased generalization performance (more than 3x improvement) compared to previous baselines,” the team said.

The RT-2 model shows that vision-language models (VLMs) can be transformed into powerful vision-language-action (VLA) models, which can directly control a robot by combining VLM pre-training with robotic data.

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“RT-2 is not only a simple and effective modification over existing VLM models, but also shows the promise of building a general-purpose physical robot that can reason, problem solve, and interpret information for performing a diverse range of tasks in the real world,” said Google DeepMind.