Wednesday, May 25, 2005

 

Evolutionary self-replicating machines

Technology review news reports here that Hod Lipson and coworkers at Cornell have built simple modular robots that reproduce themselves:

The Cornell machines, dubbed Molecubes, measure 10 centimeters to a side and are split diagonally. Each cube half swivels on a motorized axel in 120-degree increments. The cube faces have electromagnets that strengthen and weaken to make and break connections with other cubes, and contacts that transfer communications and power between cubes.

The machines are powered through a base plate mounted on the floor of their enclosure, and they receive new cubes that the researchers place by hand in specific locations. Stacks of three and four cubes can assume a variety of shapes and, by following rules governing when and how to move after each contact with another cube, three- and four-cube machines can build copies of themselves. A three-cube machine takes just over a minute to reproduce; a four-cube machine takes two and a half minutes.

The researchers have also produced software simulations that show that self-replication is possible with larger numbers of cubes. The simulations were of seven- and eight-cube machines whose shapes and controllers were generated by an evolutionary algorithm

Now all that is to be done is build functional humanoid robots that reconfigure and repair themselves and say "asta la vista baby!"

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