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A Robot Learns To Fly

timothy posted more than 12 years ago | from the flap-flap dept.

Science 289

jerkychew writes: "For those of you that read my last post about the robot escaping its captors, there's more news regarding robots and AI. According to this Reuters article, scientists in Sweden created a robot that essentially 'learned to fly' in just three hours. The robot had no preprogrammed instructions on how to achieve lift, it had to deduce everything through trial and error. Very interesting stuff."

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in related news... (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 12 years ago | (#4081523)

First Post :-)

Re:in related news... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 12 years ago | (#4081525)

damn you :P

Re:in related news... (-1)

Adolf Hitroll (562418) | more than 12 years ago | (#4081527)

Well, you forced me... I have not even taken the time to log in :-)

Iraqi war (-1, Offtopic)

polar red (215081) | more than 12 years ago | (#4081526)

To declare war on Iraq would be the most stupid thing to do. Because :
1/ Iraq would use its nuclear weapons, just because of this, they don't have a good enough reason yet, don't give them one.
2/ What do you want to attain by that ? Replace Saddam ? with another one like him ? The USA has placed Saddam there USA LEADERS ARE HYPOCRITS THAT ENDANGER THE WHOLE OF THE PLANET Or is there an election coming up ? A 2-party system is no democracy.

be productive instead of destructive (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 12 years ago | (#4081592)

true, america has gone nuts since bush junior is in power to press the button. well, it was nuts before but bill clinton's intelligence somewhat compensated it. bush ruins the world-wide economy - instability is poison for the markets.

usa could do so many better things. see sweden for example. they do not start wars and they do not destroy things. they build things and they do research in areas where still a lot of research has to be done. getting robots which can teach themselves how to fly is a great thing!

by the way: this post is NOT offtopic!

Re:Iraqi war (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 12 years ago | (#4081758)

Do you actually think we care what some socialist, european thinks? Go take a shower eurobitch.

Oh great . . . (4, Funny)

min0r_threat (260613) | more than 12 years ago | (#4081531)

Not only do we have to watch out for bird crap raining down on us, we now have robot excrement to worry about as well.

Interesting, but... (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 12 years ago | (#4081537)

They say the robot had no concept of lift or how to achieve it, but given that it could only 'twitch' its wings, it isn't really an AI-related feat to twitch them faster and faster until... hey, I'm flying!

It just seems to me like AI through logical progression, which I'd be tempted to not call AI...

Re:Interesting, but... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 12 years ago | (#4081564)

It just seems to me like AI through logical progression, which I'd be tempted to not call AI...

Yeah last time i checked, the only things that learned through logical progression is NATURAL INTELLIGENCE. Humans are just enormous IF/AND/OR functions.

Re:Interesting, but... (1, Insightful)

spectrum- (158197) | more than 12 years ago | (#4081582)

So they built a mechanical bird. They gave it wings and the ability to move them. Of course its going to flap them when given 20 random instructions per minute.

What I cant see is what makes that anything more intelligent than a headless chicken

They also dont take into account that evolution also gave the bird the desire to create lift and want to fly in the first place. Surely that would take as much intelligence again.

Re:Interesting, but... (-1, Redundant)

crevette (461203) | more than 12 years ago | (#4081810)

What they did was simply giving the 'bird' a set of instruction and meseare the results. If it's bad, ditch it. If it's good, build upon it the next (semi-randomized) version.

As simple as that. The 'bird' didn't learn to fly per se.

Re:Interesting, but... (3, Insightful)

Jeppe Salvesen (101622) | more than 12 years ago | (#4081581)

Feedback from a movement detector told the program how successful each combination of instructions tried had been, enabling it to evolve by ditching unsuccessful ones and pairing up new combinations of the ones that produced most lift.


Sounds like a neural net with real-time recalibration to me..

Re:Interesting, but... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 12 years ago | (#4081595)

it also sounds like it has been done
millions of times before... where's the beef
in this one? i couldn't find anything that
i hadn't heard before...

Re:Interesting, but... (1)

Spunk (83964) | more than 12 years ago | (#4081727)

A neural net? We have to guess because the article doesn't get into specifics, but it looks more like a genetic algorithm to me. While the "combination of instructions" could be either NN or GA, the "pairing up new combinations" line sounds like the mating step of GA.

Re:Interesting, but... (1)

minkey (209225) | more than 12 years ago | (#4081668)

The robot actually was able to rotate its wings as well as flap them. It learnt that rotating them one way on the downward stroke and the other in the upward stroke gave the most lift. Agreed not exactly an AI bird, but a step forward in AI that doesnt used preprogrammed states and instructions to base its learning on.

NEWS FOR NERDS, indeed (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 12 years ago | (#4081539)

This is prime NEWS FOR NERDS, STUFF THAT MATTERS

Let me go back to jerking myself off now.

Here, jerk off to this (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 12 years ago | (#4081567)

Hello Clitty. Me rikey poontang [exposedpornstars.com] ! [exposedpornstars.com]

Somehow... (5, Funny)

madajb (89253) | more than 12 years ago | (#4081541)


The fact that it "cheats" somehow restores my faith in robotkind....

-ajb

Re:Somehow... (2, Funny)

Xaoswolf (524554) | more than 12 years ago | (#4081725)

Cheat? Let me know when they make a robot smart enough to steal a plane. Now that's a smart robot.

Re:Somehow... (0, Flamebait)

Photon Ghoul (14932) | more than 12 years ago | (#4081735)

Those are called religious fanatics.

Re:Somehow... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 12 years ago | (#4081784)

thank you

Well.. (5, Funny)

squaretorus (459130) | more than 12 years ago | (#4081542)

A robot has taught itself the principles of flying -- learning in just three hours what evolution took millions of years to achieve

Well. Assuming the birds were TRYING to fly, knew what lift was, and already had the equipment (i.e. wings) to achieve this.

This brings an image of stupid birds sitting around flapping randomly thinking "FUCK - I'm SURE this should fucking WORK! - Bastards - OOps, I just fell over to the left - does that mean my right wing was flapped right???? - Hey - John! WHAT DID I DO THEN????"

Re:Well.. (5, Funny)

madajb (89253) | more than 12 years ago | (#4081548)


Do you think it would have learned faster if they'd taken it up to the roof, and thrown it off?

"Hmm...my sensors indicate that I am falling at a rapid rate. Maybe I ought to do something about that. I'll try flapping this thing. Nope. How about together..that seems to be wor...."

-ajb

Chicken Run (2)

af_robot (553885) | more than 12 years ago | (#4081650)

That reminded me a quote from "Chicken Run":

Rocky: You see, flying takes three things: Hard work, perseverance and... hard work.
Fowler: You said "hard work" twice!
Rocky: That's because it takes twice as much work as perseverance.

Re:Chicken Run (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 12 years ago | (#4081711)

That was a god aweful movie. British humor sucks even when its in claymation.

Re:Chicken Run (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 12 years ago | (#4081786)

And here I am thinking the claymation would make it a shoe in.

Re:Well.. (2)

ImaLamer (260199) | more than 12 years ago | (#4081685)

A robot has taught itself the principles of flying -- learning in just three hours what evolution took millions of years to achieve

I guess that the "Special Creation" theories no longer fly (ah-thankyou).

Seriously... it took _humans_ a pretty long time to figure out flight, heck, even gravity (and for some reason we want AI to be like us?).

While I'm amazed at anything that learns, which isn't carbon based, I wouldn't start comparing this to actual life. When robots actually take over, smelt metals for more robots and develop interstellar travel you'll get a wow from me.

(BTW if this sort of thing scares you remember that the commies want to purify your precious bodily fluids!)

Re:Well.. (4, Insightful)

Xaoswolf (524554) | more than 12 years ago | (#4081738)

"This tells us that this kind of evolution is capable of coming up with flying motion,"
However, the robot could not actually fly because it was too heavy for its electrical motor.

This thing didn't even learn to fly, it just flapped it's wings. And what kind of evolution did it go through, it didn't pass on different genetic information until a new trait was passed on forming a new race, it just flapped it wings.

Hmm (2, Funny)

af_robot (553885) | more than 12 years ago | (#4081543)

"However, the robot could not actually fly because it was too heavy for its electrical motor."

One small step for robot, one giant leap for robotkind

You'd think.. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 12 years ago | (#4081546)

You'd think Reuters would be able to handle a little Slashdot effect, but apparently not...

Who put the swings (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 12 years ago | (#4081556)

what evolution took millions of years to achieve

CameOn camaleon, the evolution creates everything from the unicellulars in millions of year. This sounds like the press announces from some software companies.

very interesting (4, Interesting)

shd99004 (317968) | more than 12 years ago | (#4081557)

Especially tried to cheat by standing on it's wingtips or similar. I would like to see something else though. What if we build lots of small generic robots, let's say they have wheels to move around only. The on the floor there could be more components that robots can attach themselves to, like giving them legs, wings, arms, eyes, ears etc., and then give them all different objectives, for example to survive, escape, learn from others, etc. Could be interesting to see if it would evolve into some kind of robot society where they all evolve different abilities and so on.

Re:very interesting (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 12 years ago | (#4081594)

so they can turn on us and take over the world? well at that rate they might as well since we humans can't do much of anything right now can we.

Re:very interesting (1)

Jedi Alec (258881) | more than 12 years ago | (#4081615)

As long as well provide them all with happiness chips, it's fine by me...

Re:very interesting (5, Funny)

Alan Partridge (516639) | more than 12 years ago | (#4081622)

that's rubbish - what we really need is to give robots the ability to turn into cars and F-14s and then join together into a kind of super, Optimus-Prime type of device.

Re:very interesting (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 12 years ago | (#4081647)

.. And then turn back into robots while people are still inside, Clerks Uncensored style.

- Lardon Irredesco

Re:very interesting (2, Interesting)

AlecC (512609) | more than 12 years ago | (#4081773)

The interesting question in about your proposal is the goal setting. In the swedish research, they set the system a very simple goal - generate lift using the hardware provided. And they showed that an evolutionary algorithm actaully achieved that, including exploring unexpected pathways (the cheats). But it is long, long way from such a simple, one-dimensional, goal seeking to a the multi-dimesional goal seeking required to make a working community/society. Particularly important, in my opinion, and unexplored in this scenario, is finding good compromises between conflicting goals, and particularly between long term and short term goals.

Actually, I think research of this sort has gone a lot further in the simulated environment than these swedes have done. The different thing about this research is that they have done it with an object in the physical world. This should please those who distrust simulation, but for the average /.er it probably only confirms what we have known for a while - genetic algorithms are a nifty solution to a certain class of problem.

oh well.. (2)

Jondor (55589) | more than 12 years ago | (#4081560)

The moment the robot asks for a hamburger, hookes up to the net and orders a ticket for the next flight wherever they are getting somewhere with AI and simulated evolution..

Learning to fly by trial and error (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 12 years ago | (#4081562)

Doesn't something sound just *slightly* wrong with that? Working it out as you go along... Hmmm, not sure if this is going to take off, (pun intended).

Re:Learning to fly by trial and error (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 12 years ago | (#4081571)

There were a lot of trial and error when humans first tried to learn how to fly, too.
Evolution, too, is trial and error. Only it doesn't know that, itself :)

But indeed it would be great if they could build a robot that first learns how to fly, then learns why it works so that it can build better wings and engines for itself. THAT would be AI.

Cool (3, Funny)

TheCrunch (179188) | more than 12 years ago | (#4081566)

Imagine a day where engineers build cool robots, upload the generic learn-to-do-stuff-with-your limbs program, leave it for a week or so to train up and get optimum calibration, then have it copy it's program onto subsequent batches.

I picture a robot aerobics class.. heh. But if anybody asks, I picture a robot boot camp.

Re:Cool (3, Informative)

mshiltonj (220311) | more than 12 years ago | (#4081624)

Imagine a day where engineers build cool robots, upload the generic learn-to-do-stuff-with-your limbs program, leave it for a week or so to train up and get optimum calibration, then have it copy it's program onto subsequent batches.

Read _The Practice Effect_ by David Brin. Sci-Fi. It's not a deep read, but entertaining. In an alternate universe where physics are different, the more you do something, the better you get at it. For instance, if you tie a stone to the tip of a stick and pound it against a tree, eventually the stick-stone will turn into a diamond-tipped axe.

It's a stretch, yes, but it's a fun read. You'll love it when the robot (from our world) reappears at the end of the book, after having 'practiced' what it was told to do, unseen, for most of the story.

Sensationalism (5, Insightful)

Mika_Lindman (571372) | more than 12 years ago | (#4081570)

LONDON (Reuters) - A robot has taught itself the principles of flying -- learning in just three hours what evolution took millions of years to achieve, according to research by Swedish scientists published on Wednesday.

Ridiculous to compare prebuilt robot to evolution from some dinosaur to flying dinosaur (also known as bird). This really is tabloid headlining at it's purest.
And the robot didn't even fly, just generated some lift!
It's like saying humans can fly, when they generate 1N lift flapping their arms.

But it's great to see how selflearning robots and programs will start evolving now. I quess pretty soon computers and robots will be able to evolve faster on their own than when developed by humans.

Learning to fly? (1)

HaggiZ (68526) | more than 12 years ago | (#4081573)

It's fed a set of instructions, apparently 20/sec, and is asked to remember which one got it the highest.

Execute instruction
Lift higher than others?
YES - Remember this instruction
NO - Get next instruction
Repeat until no instructions
keep repeating successful instruction

Seems pretty basic to me and hardly learning, just a new spin on analysing the effeciency of algorithms.

Re:Learning to fly? (3, Insightful)

Jugalator (259273) | more than 12 years ago | (#4081664)

hardly learning, just a new spin on analysing the effeciency of algorithms

Well, analysing efficiency of algorithms and discarding the bad ones seem pretty much like "learning" to me.

Sure, humans aren't built to work efficiently with algorithms like robots do, but we learn from mistakes which one could call "poor algorithms with an undesired result". Humans don't exactly choose randomly between ways to do things - we perform things the way we suceeded in earlier.

Re:Learning to fly? (2)

neonstz (79215) | more than 12 years ago | (#4081800)

Humans don't exactly choose randomly between ways to do things

Unfortunately, some do.

Re:Learning to fly? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 12 years ago | (#4081795)

That's an over simplification. The instructions they sent it had to be combined to produce a wing motion that would generate lift. Not just pick one (or even a subset of instructions) and keep repeating. The robot had to figure out which of the random instructions it needed to use and in what order.

This is how it starts (2, Funny)

Flounder (42112) | more than 12 years ago | (#4081575)

Next thing we know, they'll be controlling the nukes, building Skynet, and killing all humans with Schwarzenegger lookalikes.

You're all doomed, I warned you!

I'll just get to packing my stuff, moving to a remote cabin in Montana and keeping a close eye on my refridgerator (I know it hates me, it keeps melting my ice cream).

Re:This is how it starts (1)

WickerChap (591994) | more than 12 years ago | (#4081600)

Building Skynet??? The Skynet satellite was built years ago by Matra Marconi Space (now called Astrium), from memory it was primarily a military comms satellite. (as a side note, I worked there on contract a few years ago and one of the systems guys had a copy of "Terminator: Skynet" on his PC. Strangely disturbing.)

Re:This is how it starts (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 12 years ago | (#4081631)

"Build it and they will come."

Re:This is how it starts (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 12 years ago | (#4081791)

Try putting your ice cream in the freezer, it works a lot better than the refridgerator at keeping ice cream frozen.

not really (0)

odyrithm (461343) | more than 12 years ago | (#4081577)

Its not really mimicing evolution now is it, birds developed there wings over millions of years, the robot had them to start with.. what would be kewl is to create a robot that has the ability to construct itself and then see what happens.

article just bloats (2)

jo-do-cus (597235) | more than 12 years ago | (#4081584)

what evolution took millions of years to achieve
Well, at least evolution succeeded in making birds that weren't too heavy for their own wings...

Seems to me that this project was not really as exciting as they would like us to believe...

Re:article just bloats (2)

echucker (570962) | more than 12 years ago | (#4081613)

Exactly. It never actually flew. From the article -
However, the robot could not actually fly because it was too heavy for its electrical motor.

It merely succeeded in figuring out the best series of motions to get maximum lift. In any case, that's all the robot had to do - try to fly. It didn't have to worry about predator avoidance, finding food, defending a territory, or mating.

Re:article just bloats (2, Funny)

Jedi Alec (258881) | more than 12 years ago | (#4081646)

That's the next step. The damn thing figuring out that it's too heavy and:

1) doing everything it can to lose weight so as to be able to do what society is asking of it.
2) after long anorexic periods jumping off a bridge, inventing the concept of gliding half way, slowly setting down on the water and then taking digital anti-depressants until it shuts down.

Re:article just bloats (2)

Jugalator (259273) | more than 12 years ago | (#4081666)

No, of course it would be much more impressive if the robot started exchanging its metal parts with feathery wings, perhaps hunting some birds to get them. But also much more unrealistic.

Re:article just bloats (1)

lala (28594) | more than 12 years ago | (#4081741)

Hehe... This was funny! I wish I had moderator points so I could mod it up.

Wait! I have moderator points!
Ooh, why did I have to post...

Re:article just bloats (3, Funny)

OpenSourced (323149) | more than 12 years ago | (#4081751)

Well, at least evolution succeeded in making birds that weren't too heavy for their own wings...


You can consider the poor bot some kind of turkey :o)

Re:article just bloats (2)

JimPooley (150814) | more than 12 years ago | (#4081787)

Well, at least evolution succeeded in making birds that weren't too heavy for their own wings...

Apart from Penguins, Emus, Ostriches, Kakapos, Cassowaries, Kiwis, etc...

Not so... (1, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 12 years ago | (#4081586)

This thing was programmed to learn how to fly...so what...it didn't just decide it would leave the ground on it's own.

You make it sound like it came to it's own conclusion.

The programmers did everything but give it the end parameters...it only needed to finish the math.
Big deal....

A 747 can land itself, and it's a heckofalot more complicated. I don't see any headlines on that today.

Re:Not so... (2)

Hektor_Troy (262592) | more than 12 years ago | (#4081648)

A 747 can land itself, and it's a heckofalot more complicated. I don't see any headlines on that today.


Actually, the trick to landing is to let gravity pull you onto a surface.

As they say in the pilot-world: "Any landing you can walk away from is a good landing."

Re:Not so... (2)

ImaLamer (260199) | more than 12 years ago | (#4081669)

Controlled stop?

Scary Day (-1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 12 years ago | (#4081589)

How long until they learn to teach each other what they've already learned?

That's the day to be afraid. Either that or the day the learn to build themselves and no longer need us.

Impressive, but... (5, Insightful)

altgrr (593057) | more than 12 years ago | (#4081597)

Rather than comparing this to millions of years of evolution, perhaps it would be better to compare it to a bird just old enough to physically be able to fly.

The robot was physically equipped with all it needed to 'fly'; it was also equipped with all the wires in the right places. The fundamental difference between robots and living organisms is in the thinking: a newborn bird has to forge new synapses in its brain; this robot was designed with the purpose of 'learning to fly', so was given all the appropriate connections; it is just a matter of working out what sequence of events is required. Robots inherently have some form of co-ordination; birds, on the other hand, just like any other animal, have to develop such skills.

Re:Impressive, but... (3, Informative)

lovebyte (81275) | more than 12 years ago | (#4081651)

birds, on the other hand, just like any other animal, have to develop such skills.

I don't think you are quite correct here. Evolution has done wonders with the brain and pre-wired some instructions. For instance birds do learn very quickly how not to crash! And there must be some pre-wiring describing how to use air currents for instance.

Re:Impressive, but... (2)

Jugalator (259273) | more than 12 years ago | (#4081676)

Exactly - birds are born with certain knowledge about such things. Just like they're born with an anatomy they can use to fly with.

Many "lower" animals are born with such knowledge required for their survival.

Re:Impressive, but... (2)

WolfWithoutAClause (162946) | more than 12 years ago | (#4081682)

I think that it is currently believed that birds are born knowing how to fly already. They don't fly right away because their wing muscles aren't strong enough.

They do need to learn to fine tune their flying however, every birds body is going to be a bit different fo course.

Re:Impressive, but... (1)

MoobY (207480) | more than 12 years ago | (#4081756)

Please note that this story is not about "learning to fly" but about "evolving flying techniques" which is quite different, and can't be compared to how a young bird learns to fly, since the topic studied here is completely different.

Re:Impressive, but... (1)

revery (456516) | more than 12 years ago | (#4081780)

I know I'm going to be in the minority here, but some of us also think that birds were designed to fly

--

When will people get it? "Thank God" is just an expression!!

Either important or a fancy press release (2)

jukal (523582) | more than 12 years ago | (#4081608)

as everyone knows, it all depends on what software there was in the system. If the starting-point was a program, which contained instructions for trying to move the "wings", and seeing which instruction caused most lift, and tuning the algorithm based on that, I don't think theres anything fancy in it. If this is the case, this could have been done at the same time when the moonlander game was first done :) I mean, it all depends on how dedicated for this exact "learning purpose" the SW in that robot was - or was it just an self-optimizing algorithm. Is there any more details on the software inside somewhere?

Re:Either important or a fancy press release (2)

jukal (523582) | more than 12 years ago | (#4081632)

> Is there any more details on the software inside somewhere?

I found this myself, Krister Wolff was the other guy mentioned in the Reuter's article, here's his homepage [chalmers.se] . It contains some interesting publications, like the one on Sensing and Direction in Locomotion Learning with a Random Morphology Robot [chalmers.se] . Worth reading!!

Whatever (0)

WhaDaYaKnow (563683) | more than 12 years ago | (#4081609)

Post 911 babble science to make us all feel warm and fuzzy. I mean, what the fsck?

Sorry but that article is just beyond me. And the robot tried to cheat!! Well yeah if it can turn millions of years of evolution into a three hour process it shouldn't have any problem learning how to cheat.

Imagine the Wright Brothers... (5, Funny)

Kredal (566494) | more than 12 years ago | (#4081619)

"Hey guys, look! We stood on really tall stilts, does this mean we're flying?"

That would have been something to see.

The robot stands proudly on it's wings, and tells the scientists "Look at me, I generated maximum lift, and I don't have to exert any force at all. Oh, and from here, I can see the mouse is climbing over walls to get to the cheese without going through the maze. You humans are so stupid!"

Work on the cheating algorithm (2, Funny)

RoboOp (460207) | more than 12 years ago | (#4081620)

I am not sure if you can call what the robot was doing 'flying'. It was essentially just flapping its arms in the most effective way possible with whatever wing-like appendages given to it.

Now the cheating - that is the interesting part. When they have the algorithm down so that the bot hobbles out the door and purchases a ticket at the airport, then they will have a winner.

Finally! (5, Funny)

jstockdale (258118) | more than 12 years ago | (#4081627)

Cheating was one strategy tried and rejected during the process of artificial evolution -- at one point the robot simply stood on its wing tips and later it climbed up on some objects that had been accidentally left nearby.
...
But after three hours the robot discovered a flapping technique
...
However, the robot could not actually fly because it was too heavy for its electrical motor.
"There's only so much that evolution can do," Bentley said.


Finally we understand the dodo's place in evolution.

Re:Finally! (2)

Hektor_Troy (262592) | more than 12 years ago | (#4081654)

Finally we understand the dodo's place in evolution.

Ph34r the Tae-Kwon-Dodo!

You don't need hardware to try this at home... (5, Interesting)

Ben Jackson (30284) | more than 12 years ago | (#4081630)

Here's what I did to play around with breeding algorithms from small building blocks:

Define a very simple stack-based language. The stack only holds boolean values, and when empty pops and endless supply of "false" values and when full discards pushes. Choose some control flow opcodes:

NOP, SKIP (pop, if true, skip ahead a fixed amount), REPEAT (pop, if true, skip back a fxied amount), NOT, RESET (clear stack, back to beginning)

and some opcodes related to your environment (mine was a rectangular arena):

GO (try to move forward one step, push boolean success), TURN (90 degrees clockwise), LOOK (push boolean "do I see food ahead?"), EAT (try to eat, push boolean success)

Pick a stack size (this has interesting consequences, as some of my organisms learned to count by filling the stack with TRUE values and consuming them until they hit the endless supply of FALSE when empty) and a code size. Force all organisms to end in your RESET op. Generate them randomly and run them in your simulator (I did 20-50 at once letting each one run a few hundred instructions in a row). Evaluate fitness (in my case, how well fed they were) and breed them. You can combine the functions in lots of ways. Randomly choose opcodes (or groups of opcodes) from each, possibly with reordering or shifting. Introduce some mutations.

Once you get something interesting, try to figure out how it works. This can be the hardest part -- my description above produced many variations that were only 8-10 instructions long before an unavoidable RESET opcode, and they could search a grid with obstacles for food!

Re:You don't need hardware to try this at home... (-1, Flamebait)

Anonymous Coward | more than 12 years ago | (#4081699)

Wow. Ben at Ben.com

I bet that makes you feel pretty fucking special and self-actualized.

Re:You don't need hardware to try this at home... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 12 years ago | (#4081708)

theres a lot of people like that. they got lucky with a good domain name and its a big part of their ego if they realize it or not.

Re:You don't need hardware to try this at home... (2, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 12 years ago | (#4081753)

Care to release your simulator software?

Just as impressive... (2, Interesting)

Boss, Pointy Haired (537010) | more than 12 years ago | (#4081637)


MAIN
{
target = 72;

do
{
guess = rand();
}
while guess target;

print "GOT IT!"
}

NEWS HEADLINE:

Artificial Intelligence researcher creates computer program that comes up with the number 72.

Maximum lift != flying (2, Interesting)

archeopterix (594938) | more than 12 years ago | (#4081645)

The objective of the learning algorithm was to achieve maximum lift while attached to two vertical poles . So the headline should be: 'Robot learns to achieve maximum lift by flapping wings while attached to two poles'. I think keeping balance, avoiding stall, etc. are much harder to achieve.

What a load of bollox (1)

BasilBibi (213694) | more than 12 years ago | (#4081657)

This is complete and utter tabloidian rubbish. You can't compare the process of evolution (success through random mutation) to a pre-built machine that is given explicit instructions to overcome a programmed obstacle.

Re:What a load of bollox (2)

Jugalator (259273) | more than 12 years ago | (#4081692)

You can't compare the process of evolution (success through random mutation) to a pre-built machine that is given explicit instructions to overcome a programmed obstacle.

Yes - as usual the tabloids exagerrate the truth. Their mistake this time was to compare it to the entire *evolution*.

However, I still find the achievement quite impressive since it was not given explicit intructions how to overcome the obstacle to start with.

Evolution has achieved more (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 12 years ago | (#4081661)

Actually, the robot hasn't come anywhere close to the greatest achievement of 2 gazillion years of bird evolution: THE PENIS BIRD!!!!!!

Re:Evolution has achieved more (1, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 12 years ago | (#4081723)

amen!

Evolution??? (1)

WebRusell (601537) | more than 12 years ago | (#4081709)

Evolution? That's the rubbish. They built the optimized wings for the computer, they gave it the "muscular" control and the "neural" connections to command them, then they think it's news when it "flies"? The order, structure and design of the universe screams for the existence of a sentient creator that planned and DESIGNED its inhabitants and environment. Birds were created with optimized wings, muscular control and neural ability. They fly because they were designed to fly. Think rationally -- how "useful" would a primitive wing that can't produce lift, can't grasp objects and can't forage for food have been for the species to have considered it a "beneficial mutation" to continue via natural selection?

The Challenge (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 12 years ago | (#4081715)

So now we have robots that learn to speak, fly, sing, walk and talk. Well, monotonous, mundane and trivial tasks.

Really I wanna see the feat when a robot learns to be a sysadmin in a freaky corporate network, full of Windows servers/stations and having lots of lamers around him...

Interesting to see if BRfH (Bastard Robot from Hell) will be one the optimal solution to the problem...

Well, I'm impressed even if you aren't (2)

dinotrac (18304) | more than 12 years ago | (#4081724)

Seem to be a lot of folks who aren't very impressed by this. I'll admit that the headline is a little over the top, but the story is still interesting -- and fraught with interesting potential.

For example:

StarBot: How long before it learns to make a grande latte half-skim/half 30 weight?

Bouncebot: How long before it learns not to turn its back on the loud drunk in the corner?

Lobot: How long before it decides it really doesn't want to learn anything, just sit around and smile.

Congressbot: how long before it learns that working tirelessly for your constituency is its own reward, whereas lying for assorted interest groups is money in the bank? Note: This may be a special case of the Lobot.

But the real question is... (2)

OpenSourced (323149) | more than 12 years ago | (#4081731)

... did the robot felt happy for its achievement?

Link to homepage. (1)

TripleA (232889) | more than 12 years ago | (#4081736)

I study at this university :)
http://www.ida.liu.se/ext/witas/

I'm a skeptic (1)

Ironpoint (463916) | more than 12 years ago | (#4081746)


C'mon this article doesn't even have a photo of the robot. Any robot can be built to eventually reach a predicted outcome. Of course it will flap since thats what it was given wings to do. This is as exciting as giving a robot a lift fan, except in that case there is one step to success, the "turn on lift fan" command.

What would be more interesting is build a robot with many different unique mechanisms such as fans, deflectors, arms, and whatnot and see if it can produce lift in an unexpected or unique way.

necessary basic research, but flying? (1)

f00zbll (526151) | more than 12 years ago | (#4081778)

I have to say the achievement is significant and demonstrates an approach that might yield better results in the future, but it's basic research. The researcher says it didn't actually fly, just produce lift. The quality of journalism is really worth crap today. Aren't there any honest reporters who believe in working their tales off to report news accurately?

I don't proof read

Very interesting (1)

inerte (452992) | more than 12 years ago | (#4081801)

This could lead to important developments in the future. The robot had a simple goal, but imagine if it was smaller, and it's connected to a bio-scanner that measures your "overall health". It could be programed to keep this health rating at a certain level, searching and killing what is making you sick.

Robot Learns To Fly/Escape/etc. (5, Funny)

clickety6 (141178) | more than 12 years ago | (#4081804)

"It was amazing," said Dr. Heinrich Hienrichson, "Before I knew it, the robot had stolen my credit card, set up an account on Orbitz and booked two airline tickets to Mexico. Now the robot has escaped and my toaster appears to have gone misisng as well..."

How is this a breakthrough? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 12 years ago | (#4081812)

Would anyone with some AI background comment on this story? It seems to me that since the robot had instructions on how to move limbs differently and the feedback mechanism - it didn't actually learn how to generate maximum lift - it just selcted the best combination of already installed istructions. Isn't this some sort of a simple ANN?

Without details... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 12 years ago | (#4081815)

Without details the article is fairly pointless. If it actually flew the article would have a point as it is. Otherwise, it DOES sounds like just a GA. I'm going to the homepage of the professor to see what's new and different about this.

As others were, I was annoyed at comparing it to millions of years of evolution. Evolution had to make the physical design as well, it's test for success is a lot slower and fuzzier, and it's goals quite different.

An example of evolving the PHYSICAL aspects AS WELL AS the neural ones can be found in Karl Sims blockies. The little movie is pretty cool to watch. This still has the last two differences from evolution as the above, but there is no article saying the blockies are beating out evolution in 3 hours. blockies [biota.org]

(Note: I tried the link from the earlier post and it didn't work, guess I'll have to ask google.)

More interesting (1)

plarsen (579155) | more than 12 years ago | (#4081819)

I find more interesting stuff in the codes at this place:

LEET war [quakeshit.com]

where you're supposed to code a bot that kills all other bots in a game in a tournament. The AI stuff is WAY much more complicated than a stupid fly-robot that compare wingclapping with height achivement.

Oh come on... (1)

browman (191604) | more than 12 years ago | (#4081820)

... they put 'Wings' on it. What kind of a challenge is that?
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