Evolutionary robots

Taking inspiration from Darwin's theory of evolution, scientists from the Sussex University, UK, have developed a technique for evolving designs for neural network controlled robots with greater self-sufficiency.

The approach is similar to the concept of natural selection - here computer programmes which allow a degree of 'free choice' in the manoeuvres defined, and those that perform best are selected to breed the next generation robots. The researchers of the university's Evolutionary Research Group are employing Mr Chips - a mobile robot with a head that holds a laptop computer, and a body consisting of an array of processors, printed circuit boards and antennae.

Special attention is being focussed on the study of insects to understand the biological mechanisms underlying intelligent activity on which robotic movement could be based. Says Dave Cliff, lecturer in the Computer Science and Artificial Intelligence department at the university, "The fact that generally few nerve cells are involved in generating behaviour in insects makes it more practicable to model insect nervous systems on currently available computers."

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