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Scientists create robot that rebuilds itself

Spartanburg Herald-Journal Thursday, August 31, 2000


For the first time, Computer scientists have created a robot that designs and builds other robots, almost entirely without human help or expertise.

In the short run, this advance could lead to a new industry of inexpensive robots customized for specific tasks. In the long run -decades at least- robots may one day be truly regarded as "artificial life," able to reproduce and evolve, building improved versions of themselves.

Such durable, adaptive robots, astronomershave suggested, could some day be sent into space to explore the galaxy or search for other life.

But for now, the robotic manufacturing System is a Computer hooked up to a machine that builds plastic models in the laboratorv of Jordan B.Pollack and Hod Lipson at Brandeis University in Waltham, Mass. It produces 8-inch-long contraptions of plastic bars and ball joints.

When a motor and microchip are added, the automatons have one, and only one, ability: to crawl slowly. The fastest can scuttle along at a few inches a second.

"They look like toys," said Pollack, a professor of Computer science. But, "They were not engineered by humans, and they were not manufactured by humans."


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