Scientists have created a ‘mother’ robot that can build babies out of mechanised blocks, and then create new ones that evolve from the previous generation.
The findings show that robots could be able to evolve on their own, in the same way that animals and humans have. Like biological evolution, the robots mother could look out for the best traits in her children, and then use those to improve the following generations of robots.
In five different experiments, robot set the mother — which looks like a big robotic arm — to work building generations of ten different children. They were built out of small plastic cubes with motors inside.
Each of the robots carries a “genome”, made up of different genes, like humans do. As the generations were built, they passed them down and they mutated and cross over, deleting and merging genes to choose the most effective.
During the experiment, the children were tested to see how far they could travel in a given time. The characteristics of the winning robots would be kept, while the losing ones would be discarded.
And it might also eventually help us create robots that can improve themselves without any input from humans at all. At the moment, robots require us to fix them — they wouldn’t themselves begin to stand up on their hind legs, for instance — but eventually that might change.