If, for some reason, you’re worried that the Robot Apocalypse might not actually happen, I have some good news. University of Cambridge researchers have developed a robot that can not only build other robots, but also test and improve them. In other words, they’ve created something akin to robotic natural selection.
“In each of five separate experiments, the mother designed, built and tested generations of ten children, using the information gathered from one generation to inform the design of the next. The results, reported in the open access journal PLOS One, found that preferential traits were passed down through generations, so that the ‘fittest’ individuals in the last generation performed a set task twice as quickly as the fittest individuals in the first generation.”
Each new robot — consisting of plastic cubes and a small motor — took roughly 10 minutes to create, and was tested according to how far it could travel in a set amount of time. Curiously, the researchers found that the “mother” robot was able to create “new shapes and gait patterns,” including designs, they say, that human designers would not be capable of building.
What this means for future robots is anyone’s guess. The researchers are hoping to speed up the process, perhaps by allowing the “mother” robot to use computer simulations to design and test new robots before building them.
Just imagine: someday a motherbot may find itself building armies of evolving, walking ATLAS bots, no human interaction required.