Scientists had a ‘mother’ robot build that can make her own ‘babies’, by carefully analyzing each unit and improving on the next through a digital version of natural selection. If you believe Stephen Hawking or Elon Musk are right to warn us against a robot uprising, here is where you might say it started.
Researchers at the University of Cambridge managed to effectively build a robot that will create its own little tiny bots, and not only that. It was also able to tell which models were more efficient and which presented flaws in order to fix the issue for its latter ‘children’.
According to lead researcher Dr. Fumiya Iida “Natural selection is basically reproduction, assessment, reproduction, assessment and so on.”, which is precisely what the mother bot is able to achieve. However, it’s not Skynet just yet, and hopefully never will be.
The ‘mother’ is basically an arm that configures smaller robots made of plastic cubes with just a motor inside. It would then observe them as they moved around and was able to tell where there was a problem in their configuration that could be fixed. And she certainly did.
According to the researchers, after a few ‘generations’, the tiny robots were able to perform tasks twice as more efficiently than the first. It features a kind of evolution that was not thought possible of robotics, who were often seen as devices that can only perform “repetitive” actions. However, the new research has proven that they can improve upon themselves, without an altering in its programming made by a human.
Each little bot had a specific ‘genome’, made up of five different genes that told of its capabilities and information on its shape, construction and motor commands. The winning and helpful characteristics were kept by the ‘mother bot’ for future designs, while the faulty aspects were intelligently discarded.
The new technology might help us manufacture robots that will one day be able to improve upon themselves without human aid. It’s perhaps an ambition that sounds a little terrifying, considering one of the main aspects of robots made so far is that they would eventually need us to perform upgrades or fixes.
As scary as the concept of independent robots sounds, researchers have it in mind to make them more adaptable and constantly improve on their own design, for the obvious benefit of humans, such as many functions in construction. If the robot could adapt by itself, it could construct similar but much more stabled structures.
Image source: mashable.com