Tough babies, better robots


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Evolutionary robotics has mechanical critters improving faster
According to research from University of Vermont roboticist John Bongard, for really though robots, you have to let them be babies first. He created simulated and actual robots that change their body forms while learning how to walk. His simulated robots evolved over generations and learned to walk more rapidly than robots with fixed body forms. This morphological changes help design better robots.

Bongard and other robotics experts have used computer programs to design robots and develop behaviors rather than programming the robots’ behavior directly. His simulation had synthetic creatures move about in three dimensions which have 12 moving parts. Some robots begin flat like tadpoles, some have splayed legs like a lizard and others run with upright legs like grown mammals. Bongard said it’s like a human learning how to roll, then crawl, then walk. The most surprising and possibly useful finding is that after the changing robots reached the final goal, they more successfully withstood new challenges they hadn’t faced, like being knocked with sticks in an attempt to make them fall.