In what can only be described as robotic evolution, researchers have created a robot that can create other robots, and in do so, create each version as slightly better than the last, passing along the most useful features onward.
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The results of the experiment were published in the journal PLOS One, and carried out by ETH Zürich and the University of Cambridge. In the experiment of evolution, a mother robot – basically a large robotic arm – was able to design and build different versions of smaller, cube-shaped robots. The mother robot observed each kid robot, in turn creating better-performing robots next time around.
Is this the origin of Robot Evolution?
The square children bots(10 at a time/generation) were tested by the mom-bot to see how far and fast they could travel across a table. At the end of their travels, the ‘winner’ continues to the next generation, while the losers were replaced.
The Mom robot would then design and build new children with different shapes or motor abilities. Each generation of robots would be faster and faster.
This research yields a lot of insight about robot design, but also overcomes a large challenge in the world of robotics: making robots adaptable to new situations, instead of building a set design, like on an assembly line.
The goal of the experiment is to get robots to builds better robots than perhaps humans are capable of designing.
The experiment treated the robots almost like their own species.
[…”Natural selection is basically reproduction, assessment, reproduction, assessment and so on…That’s essentially what this robot is doing—we can actually watch the improvement and diversification of the species”…] – Dr. Fumiya Iida, Lead Researcher.
This experiment has begun dabble into a new category of technology being labeled ‘Evolutionary Robotics‘, in which robots are built without human guidance. The idea is to build physical bodies that can adapt to their environments.
Just another reminder that robots are getting smarter and smarter. If you want to see how the experiment ends, may I recommend watching The Matrix[University of Cambridge via Motherboard]