Quirks & Quarks

Robots That Can't be Stopped

Researchers develop a system that allows robots with missing or damaged legs to quickly find new ways to move.

Damaged robots adapt and perservere

Hexapedal robot with damaged leg (Antoine Cully/UPMC)
An unstoppable robot that can continue to move and pursue its mission, despite damage, should be a useful device - as well as a great plot point for a movie. Generally, robots have been not very good at coping with damage. Their rigidly programmed behaviours tend to break down completely when some part of their system breaks.

But Dr. Jeff Clune, an Assistant Professor of Computer Science at the University of Wyoming in Laramie, and his colleagues, have developed an algorithm that allows damaged robots to quickly adapt to their new condition, and improvise a new way to function.

In effect, they give their robots a simulated "childhood", during which they experiment with their bodies, which equips them with the knowledge they need to adapt and overcome damage.

Related Links

- Paper in Nature
- University of Wyoming release
- Nature News story
BBC News story