Meet The Robot That Keeps Moving With Broken Legs

Meet The Robot That Keeps Moving With Broken Legs

A new breakthrough has determined a fast method of helping robots move with damaged limbs: Giving them a "childhood" training period.

When we think about horrifying robot apocalypses, we're almost always thinking about movies like Terminator, where androids keep coming for you no matter how many limbs you blow off. Apparently some young roboticists watched that movie as children and decided decided such motion could go well beyond science fiction. That's why, according to a new report published in Nature, we can watch a six-legged robot compensate for the effects of broken limbs and malfunctioning motors within minutes. The technology is highly effective at letting robots determine the best way of reaching objectives - but rather than wipe out the human resistance movement, they'll be used to support rescue missions in disaster zones.

"Robots will eventually provide tremendous benefits to society, especially if they can complete tasks too dangerous for humans to perform," the University of Wyoming's Jeff Clune explained. "But robots won't be effective in those situations if they can't adapt and continue on after being damaged."

The breakthrough isn't based solely on the robots themselves - we've had robots capable of advanced movement for some time. What's key is a new algorithim that lets the robot figure out different gaits and motions much faster. Normally when a particular approach stops being effective, the robot tests various ways of moving until it finds one works. The process can take hours, so Clune and his team found a more effective method: Giving the robot a simulated "childhood".

"It plays for a while," Clume continued. "It learns lots of ways to move its body, just like a child saying, 'Oh, I can walk on my tippy toes, I can hop on one foot.'" Despite being the most adorable way to imagine robot movement this side of Big Hero 6, the process creates an intuitive movement sense that the robot relies on in the future. It also removes the need to program different movement scenarios into the robot, since it's capable of learning them itself.

What's more, the robot has already proved it can work under pressure. When the study's lead authors were asked to present the robot to VIPs, they had no idea custodial staff had waxed the floor to preparation for the demonstration. "It made the place look spic and span, but obviously the robot could no longer walk," Clume said. "But luckily our robot can deal with unforeseen situations. It adapted from sliding around the room to walking steadily in minutes."

The technology can even go beyond robots, as the team showed using a mechanical arm that keeps working with malfunctioning motors. The next step is to extend the algorithim to more complex technology used outside of the lab, such as search-and-rescue operations.

Source: Nature, via Washington Post


The technology is highly effective at letting robots determine the best way of reaching objectives - but rather than wipe out the human resistance movement, they'll be used to support rescue missions in disaster zones.

Citation needed.

But seriously, it is both awe-inspiring and terrifying. Learning computers are one of my favourite concepts, and it's crazy to watch them be assembled in bits and pieces. I don't know if I'm getting old or if technology is just getting more scary the faster it moves from "fiction" to "science".

... Am I the only one picturing the end scene to the first Terminator?

This one?

Oh we're just fucking begging for a robot apocalypse at this point.

Nope, still not seeing doom and gloom in our future. This shit's COOL.

Sounds to me like this robbot can defeat the biggest enemy robots had - stairs.

We either need to shut this down now or hope that humans survive long enough for the machines to invent time travel technology.

Somebody get Linda Hamilton on the phone.

That's awesome.

Robot movement is an absurdly difficult challenge. Anything that helps it perform better is worth a lot in making robots more practical and useless...

I saw a technology with a vaguely similar basis that had applications in more natural character movement in computer games too.
It even had the side effect of resulting in natural responses to events it wasn't trained to handle.
(such as being pushed or shoved around).

I think I might look into this research to see if I can do anything like that with it for games... >_>

this came from escapist probably years ago, but here's a link to the article mentioned, and it's WAAY cooler than the learning robots in this story. and way scarier.

That is very very cool, because the main sticking point with all robots is still that they take thousands of hours for someone program their movement for every eventuality, and if something wasn't considered before they are dead in the water.

Not a neural network if I see this correctly, but it does offer an overview of it's learning process which is a must for now.


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