Scientists reproduce ‘animal-like’ ability to perform new movements after being damaged. This is considered as a very important step towards the large scale use of smart machines.
Intelligent robots which can cope with injuries are a subject for science fiction, but scientists have created the real-life version: machines that can “adapt like animals” to problems to their functioning and recover in just a few minutes.
The ability for robots to resolve unforeseen challenges is considered a crucial step towards the use of smart machines in all areas, from the battlefield to the home, but until now researchers have struggled to create machines that are independent of human intervention.
“Everything we take for granted works so well because nature’s worked at it for so long. If we get a splinter in our heel, we just start walking on our tiptoes, we don’t even think about how we’re doing it”, said Jeff Clune, a computer scientist at the University of Wyoming
Clune and his team have managed to imitate this “animal-like” ability to recover after injury in a six-legged robot but also in a mechanical arm which was created to pick up objects.
Videos released by the scientists show the six-legged robot flailing at first after the power is severed to one of its legs. After trying out a range of alternative strategies, in just two minutes it has gained an entirely new stability, which allowed it to move forward toward its target in spite of the damage.
Most important is the fact that the robots are adapting through an “intelligent trial and error” approach, which allows them to resolve new challenges independently. It is a huge improvement from the pre-programmed versions which dealt with every imaginable obstacle. This means that the robots often surprised their creators with the solutions they invented and in some cases their actual performance improved after receiving the damage.
In another case, the researchers challenged the robot to continue its walk without any of its feet on the ground. It was a command scientists assumed it would fail at. “It flipped over on its back and walked with its elbows. It can be very creative,” Clune said.
The mechanical arm learned with ease to cope with some of its motors being turned off.
The concept of an adaptable robot which has the potential to be more powerful over the course time may seem like a science fiction plot, but researchers are saying that it could become a real fact in the next years.
Image Source: Tech Times