Scientists from the Cambridge University developed a mother robot that is capable of building its own children. The robot builds other robots, tests them and then is capable of modifying their design in order to work better.
A video released by the scientists shows the mother robot building its own children and watches how they behave. After closely analyzing their progress, the mother robot selects the ones that have performed the best and improves their design, similar to how evolution works in nature.
This is the first time that this kind of natural selection process has been crafted inside a machine and it is an important step towards the search for artificial intelligence. The mother robot has been programmed in order to build cube bots equipped with small motors inside that allow the small offspring to move. The robot then redefines their design depending on how efficiently the small bots move. During five experiments, the mother robot was permitted to build her own children until she reached 10 generations. Each of the times, the mother robot used the most efficient robot in order to redesign the next one.
Scientists found that the traits that were preferential were passed down through the generations of small robots so that the last small machine performed its task twice as fast as the ones prior to it.
Dr. Fumiya Iida from the Department of Engineering at the Cambridge University, who collaborated with researchers from ETH Zurich, said that natural selection is essentially reproduction, assessment, reproduction, assessment and so on. He added that this is exactly what the recently developed mother robot does and that they are able to analyze the diversification and improvement of its species.
The small robots were designed from five different rules which were responsible for their shapes, motor commands and construction. Each machine, which took the mother robot around 10 minutes to test, build and design, was assessed based on how far it moved in a period of time.
With the time, performance improved and design variation emerged, not just through tuning, but because the robot invented new movement patterns and shapes, including ones that a human couldn’t have done.
Dr. Iida said that it’s still a long way to go before we will be able to have robots that think, look and act like us but we have numerous technologies that will let us put in some aspects from biology to the engineering world.
The recent study was published in the PLOS One journal.
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