System Creates 'Robotic Life'--Automatically

From: J. R. Molloy (
Date: Mon Oct 02 2000 - 22:34:20 MDT

System Creates 'Robotic Life'--Automatically
Scientists in the burgeoning field of artificial life have reached a major
milestone, creating a computerized system that automatically creates, evolves,
improves and finally builds a variety of simple mobile creatures without any
significant human intervention.
The achievement, according to Rodney Brooks, head of MIT's Artificial
Intelligence Lab, is "a long-awaited and necessary step toward the ultimate
dream of self-evolving machines."
In 1994, artificial life pioneer Karl Sims, now of GenArts Inc., applied
artificial evolution to the generation of virtual creatures in which both
"brains" and "bodies" evolved together. These entities, however, could "live"
only in a computer.
Pollack, Lipson and others from Brandeis in Waltham, Mass., extended the idea to
creatures that could be built automatically and function in the real world.
Eventually, the scientists will increase the complexity of their creatures to
handle uneven terrain and other real-world complications. There is no danger,
Pollack said, that the process can get out of hand, creating autonomous rogue
robots. "This isn't some out-of-control 'Terminator,' " he said.
Sooner or later, the researchers write in Nature, "to realize artificial life,
full autonomy must be attained. . . . Only then can we expect synthetic
creatures to sustain their own evolution."

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