Robot adapts to surrounding environment
Scientists from the University of Vermont and from the Cornell University have announced a new robot that is able to study the surrounding environment, re-adapt to it and even heal itself in the case of unexpected damage. As you can imagine those capabilities could prove really useful for missions on unknown or dangerous territory.
The process is not that simple. Apparently the robot is able to create a virtual model of itself on the internal computer that it carries. Every movement is then updated into the model so that the computer will be predict future actions and even compensate for specific malfunctions.
One of the authors of the study commented that “Most robots have a fixed model laboriously designed by human engineers (…) we showed, for the first time, how the model can emerge within the robot. It makes robots adaptive at a new level, because they can be given a task without requiring a model. It opens the door to a new level of machine cognition and sheds light on the age-old question of machine consciousness, which is all about internal models.”
The robot is called Starfish even though it has four legs instead of five as the animal. The aim of the researchers was to create something similar to live beings. If a human, for example, hurts an arm or a leg he will consequently adapt to the new situation and change the way he handle objects or the way he walks around. Traditional robots, on the other hand, are programmed under a definite code which does not change whatsoever.
You can watch video illustrating how the robot works here. The video shows how the internal virtual simulation of the robot works and how it translates into effective movements.