Robot Mum Watches Children Fail, Then Builds Better Models

By Gary Cutlack on at

Scientists having fun with robotics under the pretence of it being serious work have come up with the concept of the cruel mother -- a robot who build endless "children" and bins the rubbish ones.

The concept tests machine building and self-learning. The parental robot has been given the tools necessary to assemble miniature wheeled offspring, which are then pumped out into the real world and monitored on a testbed, like a slightly more sadistic than usual episode of Top Gear. The parent then has to decide which iterations are doing well for themselves and which are useless, retaining features from the good models to use in future self-made offspring.

It's like genetic testing for children made real. University of Cambridge lecturer Dr Fumiya Iida said: "So the mother robot can actually build hundreds of child robots and see the performance of these child robots and, if their performance is good, keep their design for the next generation. And if bad, just let it go. And just repeating this iterative design improvement processes, the mother robot can actually gradually improve the performance of the child robot."

Maybe that's why some human families have more than one child? Cambridge Uni research associate Andre Rosendo is quite enthusiastic about the idea and how it may be used to evolve engineering in ways beyond what human minds and pencils can currently achieve, adding: "If you could have robot cameras evaluating how each car is being created, and from the mistakes that you had in the operation you could just re-do for the next car and for the next car, and you keep re-doing it -- at the end you're going to have amazing cars." [Reuters]