Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Evolving Robots

Yep. That's right. Scientists have used evolution to make robots. As blogger Bryan at Imaging Geek explains:
And not just any robots - robots that walk, hunt each other, evolve their shape, and which are even altruistic - a distinctly mammalian trait. All of that was evolved; starting with nothing more than a collection of parts and a simple mutation/selection algorith.
What's more, the study teaches us about evolution, to wit:
  1. Small mutations can lead to very rapid changes in form/behaviour. All of the behaviours appeared quite quickly in these experiments - usually a functioning behaviour/structure would appear in a few dozen generations, and after 100 or so generations the behaviour/structure would be highly defined.
  2. Once a behaviour/trait is formed, it is optimised very rapidly.
  3. Very simple systems (in this case consisting of a few hundred parts - compared to the thousands to tens-of-thousands of genes in living organisms) can be moulded by evolution into extremely complex beings, capable of complex - even cooperative - behaviours.

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