“Learning” robots know how to evolve

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Fans of the Terminator films might want to look away now: engineers appear to have come up with a robot that can evolve.

Research teams in Cambridge and Zurich have developed a robot arm that builds other versions of itself that get better with each generation, and they accomplish all of this without subsequent human help.

Project has several goals in mind

Published in the journal PLOS One, the work by the two teams is based on a project aimed at producing future robots that can adapt to new surroundings without human intervention.

Cambridge University’s Dr Fumiya Iida led the research, which was undertaken with colleagues in Zurich at ETH University.

Dr Iida explained that one of the project’s aims was to gain insights into the evolutionary process of living things, saying that they are using robotics to explore the great biological mystery of how intelligence came about.

“We think of robots as performing repetitive tasks, and they’re typically designed for mass production instead of mass customisation, but we want to see robots that are capable of innovation and creativity,” he said.

Adaptation is an important quality

They also want to create robots that are capable of improving their performance by adapting to new situations. Andre Rosendo also worked on the project, and he explained the advantages of robots that could make better versions of themselves.

“You can imagine cars being built in factories and the robot looking for defects in the car and fixing them by itself,” he said. “And robots used in agriculture could try out slightly different ways of harvesting crops to see if they can improve yield.”


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