Wednesday, July 28, 2021
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Leading to the Terminator?


Hod Lipson, Assistant Professor of Mechanical & Aerospace Engineering and Computing & Information Science at Cornell University, is deeply involved in a variety of robot research programs that use biological models in the quest for robots that are self-designing and capable of self-manufacture. In his Golem project, Hod created an evolutionary simulator in which virtual robots could evolve in a computer. A selective advantage was given to those that could clamber across terrain. After 200 generations, many dozens of misfit robots had evolved in this cyber world, yet a few were capable of locomotion.

Shown is one that moves using stubby arms and a triangular tail. The “CAD” file for this robot was loaded to another computer (or robot) with a 3D printer; and the design that had evolved online, without human intervention, was brought into reality. Hod and Jordan Pollack plugged in the bot and away it crawled—this was the first robot design created through automated means within a robot and manufactured by a robot. Could this research be to future robot generations what RNA was to the future of DNA and biological life? Lipson and students Zykov and Bongard’s 9-legged robot used a neural network to learn to walk. Visit his website to see a video of this robot mastering legged locomotion—on its own.