Scientists Create Learning Robot That Licks its Wounds and Gets Back Up

By Gary Cutlack on at

A routine that claims to enhance the learning powers and performance of damaged robots has been developed, suggesting that, in the future, our robotic friends/enemies may carry on despite injury. The brave little soldiers.

The paper, published in Nature under the title Robots that can adapt like animals, explains that today's robots, once damaged, don't really take into account the nature of the injury or adapt their behaviour. They carry on grinding away as if all their legs were still attached, the stupid things.

That's where the concept of Intelligent Trial and Error comes in, a system that asks damaged bots to assess what's gone wrong and come up with a plan to amend their mobility accordingly. A bit like how an old man might pick up a walking stick. Robots using this system come with a pre-loaded set of performance experiences, a bit like memories of how it works.

The developers explain: "When the robot is damaged, it uses this prior knowledge to guide a trial-and-error learning algorithm that conducts intelligent experiments to rapidly discover a behaviour that compensates for the damage. Experiments reveal successful adaptations for a legged robot injured in five different ways, including damaged, broken, and missing legs, and for a robotic arm with joints broken in 14 different ways."

[Work experience boy, please put in a closing paragraph here about how this is a bit like The Terminator. Thanks.] [EurekAlert via The Register]