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Self-Replicating Robots

samzenpus posted more than 9 years ago | from the beginning-of-the-end dept.

Robotics 305

ABC News is running a story that self-replicating robots are no longer the stuff of science fiction. Scientists at Cornell University have created small robots that can build copies of themselves. Here is a movie demonstrating the self-replication process. And the paper that will be published in Thursdays issue of Nature.

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More! (1)

Valcoramizer (812232) | more than 9 years ago | (#12504596)

Ahhh, they're everywhere...

Re:More! (2, Interesting)

gaanagaa (784648) | more than 9 years ago | (#12504800)

1:00 X-Robot
2:00 Y-Robots X/2#1 and X/2#2 + X
3:00 Z-Robots X/4#1 and X/4#2 +X+Y
4:00 W-Robots X/8#1 and X/8#2 +X+Y+Z

Re:More! (5, Interesting)

Rei (128717) | more than 9 years ago | (#12504812)

The thing is, self replication isn't a completely clearcut situation. Everything has inputs, so the issue is how distant from your inputs you can get. In an extreme example, I could say that a rock with a broken stick attached to it is a self replicator, because if you put the stick of a pair of rocks connected by a stick under it, the rock will break the connecting stick and have created two more copies of itself.

For a more real-world example, look at malformed prions involved in BSE (mad cow disease). In a way, they self replicate - a single malformed prion can end up leaving your brain full of them. On the other hand, their input is simply a normal prion - they just fold it into their misformed shape. Is that really replication? Yes, but it's a pretty simple form of replication with very limited inputs.

A real feat would be robots that could self replicate with their only material inputs being, say, raw minerals and energy. That would be closer to what bacteria do.

Bound to Increase ROI. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#12504600)

CEO James L. Marciano here. Thanks,
James []

It's ALIVE!!!! (3, Funny)

davidwr (791652) | more than 9 years ago | (#12504604)

Quick, someone alert the SPCA!

It's life Jim, but not as we know it (1, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#12504629)

We come in peace
Shoot to kill
Shoot to kill

Re:It's life Jim, but not as we know it (1)

dtfinch (661405) | more than 9 years ago | (#12504801)

You cannot change the laws of physics.

So? (5, Funny)

markana (152984) | more than 9 years ago | (#12504606)

/. stories have been performing this feat for years...

(the trick is to get them to *stop* duplicating...)

hmm.. (5, Funny)

Heem (448667) | more than 9 years ago | (#12504608)

Would this be considered robot porn?

Re:hmm.. (1)

spiderworm (830684) | more than 9 years ago | (#12504643)

Yick. Somehow watching a video of robots "replicating" doesn't do it for me.

Re:hmm.. (1)

Joey Patterson (547891) | more than 9 years ago | (#12504660)

No, it's actually [] .

Re:hmm.. (3, Funny)

MrAnnoyanceToYou (654053) | more than 9 years ago | (#12504686)

Somehow, despite years of training, I am drawn to this link. It sounds so....... Not attractive in a sexual way, but... Yeah. Like I would get a pile of fifty popups that all had Duplo-style bots bouncing upon each other with gusto... Like marionette sex, only with electricity and gears and lube oil. Maybe it's just a sign that I need to lower my standards a bit on the women I'm willing to sleep with.

FREEE P-P-P-Power Strapon Lesbian porn POST! (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#12504677)

FREEE P-P-P-Power Strapon Lesbian porn POST!

Shweeet doggie [] is this quick! []

Boring pink borers. []

I think Japanese girls are boring [] too; not even bukake will save them.

Some good scenese are worth waiting for [] , especially when the best content is one fifth of the full film and at the end.

I so-wanted to do this [] to Ella of Frell. [] (perhaps even the fairy-mother too!)

It just ain't the same [] ol' thing in prison [] . Why can't the males' prison be oriented to watch the females' prison? Gahhhh...

Go anal! [] Go anal! [] Did you hear an echo in here? I didn't.

I'll ride [] anything with hair on it, but I've yet to see a rider better than this [] .

Dag-gone whipper-ass-snappers! []

This is Dr. Dead aDildo, BS, MSH, WD40; Until the ontop story arives, be well!

Re:hmm.. (2, Funny)

dotpavan (829804) | more than 9 years ago | (#12504713)

its "self-replicating".. without a partner.. so that comes under a sexual reproduction I guess.. or as you can call: pleasuring itself

Re:hmm.. (1)

dotpavan (829804) | more than 9 years ago | (#12504729)

correction: asexual not "a sexual" (damn I shud have used the preview button)

Re:hmm.. (4, Funny)

kv9 (697238) | more than 9 years ago | (#12504771)

Would this be considered robot porn?

no silly, this [] is robot pr0n.

OMFG! Hahahhaa! (1)

drewzhrodague (606182) | more than 9 years ago | (#12504893)

Absolutely! I'll bet that (in certain robot cultures) may be also considered as art, a joke, or analogies about the meaning of life.

Re:hmm.. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#12504818)

that's hot.

Not replication (3, Interesting)

pmazer (813537) | more than 9 years ago | (#12504611)

That's a really cool robot and all, but it's not replicating itself. It's just taking more pieces, already machined, of itself to break itself in two.

Re:Not replication (1)

Valcoramizer (812232) | more than 9 years ago | (#12504621)

Well, it's kind of like mitosis.

Re:Not replication (4, Insightful)

MankyD (567984) | more than 9 years ago | (#12504655)

It may not be creating itself from what most would consider "raw" materials, but from its own world view it is. It has a few fundamental building blocks from which it can create more advanced structurues - copies of itself in this case.

Re:Not replication (5, Interesting)

r4bb1t (663244) | more than 9 years ago | (#12504697)

This type of "replication" is what Von Neumann envisioned with his kinetic automata. They essentially sit in a sea of their own parts and use them to reproduce themselves. It started the field of cellular automata [] that is used today in biology and elsewhere. It may not seem like much, but it's a promising first step.

Re:Not replication (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#12504845)

Yeah, precisely. Sorry for the buzzword, but picture this applied with nano-technology, and the potential really starts to hit home IMO.

Re:Not replication (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#12504705)

as long as THEY [] are not running around stealing scrap metal from my apartment... i'm down.

Re:Not replication (2, Informative)

neil.pearce (53830) | more than 9 years ago | (#12504853)

Cough... 1959 Cough...

L. S. Penrose. ``Self-reproducing machines.'' Scientific American, Vol. 200, No. 6., pages 105-114, June 1959.

In fanciful terms, we visualized the process of mechanical self-replication proceeding somewhat as follows: Suppose we have a sack or some other container full of units jostling one another as the sack is shaken and distorted in all manner of ways. In spite of this, the units remain detached from one another. Then we put into the sack a prearranged connected structure made from units exactly similar to those already within the sack... Now we agitate the sack again in the same random and vigorous manner, with the seed structure jostling about among the neutral units. This time we find that replicas of the seed structure have been assembled from the formerly neutral or ``lifeless'' material.''

Videos of the above exist, but I have no sources. They were shown on a 1980's BBC "Tomorrows World"

Re:Not replication (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#12504902)

Too bad, I thought it was time to revise the FAQ [] again.

That's not self replication (4, Insightful)

catbutt (469582) | more than 9 years ago | (#12504613)

Hell they might as well consider the raw material to be "robots that are powered off", and then have the bots push the power button on the "raw material" to create a new robot.


Re:That's not self replication (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#12504658)

It's not self-replication, but the useful application of self-repair is still valid.

Re:That's not self replication (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#12504668)

Or when a domino falling replicates its fallen state in the domino beside it...

Re:That's not self replication (1)

catbutt (469582) | more than 9 years ago | (#12504741)

Or prions (as in mad cow disease), which some people consider to be "self replicating protiens". But they are really just a twisted form of a protien, and all they do is cause other normal protiens to twist.

It's interesting, and may have implications as to how simple chain reactions (such as fire or crystalization) could have gradually turned into what we consider life. But still....don't make it out to be more that it really is.

Re:That's not self replication (3, Insightful)

datafr0g (831498) | more than 9 years ago | (#12504707)

Why is this not self replication?
Who said that replication must involve the original robot to create the robot parts? And even if it did, it would still have to create these "spare parts" from smaller parts anyway...
The robot is replicating itself from it's own basic building blocks from what I can see.

Re:That's not self replication (4, Insightful)

FleaPlus (6935) | more than 9 years ago | (#12504819)

Why is this not self replication?

Indeed. Last I checked, humans and other animals couldn't self-replicate either, but needed to have raw materials preprocessed by things like plants first.

Re:That's not self replication (3, Insightful)

Andy Gardner (850877) | more than 9 years ago | (#12504733)

I agree how is this different to robots on an assembly line assembling a car, change 'car' to 'copies of the robot performing the assembly' and you have a /. story. The only reason it hasn't been done before is theres no point?

Re:That's not self replication (4, Funny)

nacturation (646836) | more than 9 years ago | (#12504806)


Not to mention that they don't have wireless and carry less space than a Nomad.

Re:That's not self replication (2, Funny)

istartedi (132515) | more than 9 years ago | (#12504904)

less space than a Nomad

That's because Nomad is perfect. I am Nomad. I have the perfect ammount of space. These robots are not perfect. They must be sterilized. Steeerrrrriiiillllized!

Old Glory Insurance (5, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#12504615)

Old Glory Insurance []

SNL Skit, funny as shit!

Science Fiction? (2, Funny)

RoadkillBunny (662203) | more than 9 years ago | (#12504616)

If they can replicate themselfs like in scienfiction, dosn't that mean they will take over the world like in science fiction?

Re:Science Fiction? (1)

Kraemahz (847827) | more than 9 years ago | (#12504653)

No, you see, you're forgetting about the "fiction" part.

Re:Science Fiction? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#12504674)

Never stopped the Christians!

Re:Science Fiction? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#12504680)

So were these things until someone built them.

Re:Science Fiction? (1)

Tharkban (877186) | more than 9 years ago | (#12504847)

Have you ever built a robot and tried to get it do anything? It's enough to make you want to go into software development! I have no fear of them taking over the world, I can't even get them to walk across the room.

I can't wait!!! (4, Funny)

jhfry (829244) | more than 9 years ago | (#12504619)

I can't wait till my neighbor's lawn mower and mine (both Friendly Robotics) can mate, the people across the street can never seem to keep their lawn mowed and are too cheap to buy one like ours... Hell I'll pimp mine out if it increases property values in my neighborhood.

Re:I can't wait!!! (1)

CypherXero (798440) | more than 9 years ago | (#12504642)

What are you going to do when it doesn't pay up? Bitch slap it? Hmmm, maybe that's why they put those stickers on there, warning you to not put your hand near the blade...

Re:I can't wait!!! (2, Funny)

Scorillo47 (752445) | more than 9 years ago | (#12504739)

A lawn mover that can mate? It's called a geese.

Re:I can't wait!!! (4, Funny)

jhfry (829244) | more than 9 years ago | (#12504761)

Sheep mate too... and I bet they could keep my lawn trimmed... and in my neighborhood, I could pimp them out as well!

GOOSES!!! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#12504825)

NO its called GOOSES!!! []

Re:I can't wait!!! (1)

renehollan (138013) | more than 9 years ago | (#12504782)


I seam to have the same problem with some of the neighbors across the street.

The house I recently bought came with a well-lanscaped yard... two owners ago. I have a brown thumb, but I appreciate such things so I asked my lawncare company to "take a look" and tell me what it would cost to "fix and maintain" things.

Mostly, it's in desperate need of pruning, but I learned a few surprising things: as they were walking the property, they'd stop and explain the work to be done. At one point, they noted, "We'll cut these weeds out and... Oh! Look! You have a blabedyblah!! Have you any idea what this plant is worth!?... My, it's even a single-stemmed blabedyblah! Sir, this plant is worth at least $350. Ah, I see you have a second one over there..."

Time to google for blabedyblah...

I don't (yet) know to what degree (if any) they were bullshitting, but, looking at the overgrowth, I'm just happy if they make it stop! (or at least not look like something from a tropical jungle) :-)

I am not Sarah Connor (5, Funny)

ArielMT (757715) | more than 9 years ago | (#12504622)

I am not Sarah Connor, and I don't know anyone destined to stop these evil self-replicating robots, terminators, or Skynet. Just wanted to make that clear.

Not so much replicating... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#12504630)

Looks more like reconfiguring, and less like replacating.

Well... (2)

spammeister (586331) | more than 9 years ago | (#12504632)

I for one welcome our new cube overlords...

(Here's hoping for one day a self completing rubix cube).

Re:Well... (2, Funny)

tktk (540564) | more than 9 years ago | (#12504880)

I for one welcome our new cube overlords...

Would someone or something just go aehad and take over the world already?

I'm tired of having to change my welcome banner every few days.

Not exactly "gray goo" (3, Insightful)

localroger (258128) | more than 9 years ago | (#12504633)

So they can assemble spare parts into copies of themselves. Where do they get the spare parts? Oh right.

Re:Not exactly "gray goo" (1)

Kiffer (206134) | more than 9 years ago | (#12504745)

fool the spareparts appear of if thin air... dont you remember that time in startrek when the nanites are replicating ... or in stargate ... there's a flash and then there are more of them... thats just the way it works.
same thing is going on here ... watch the video... and watch more tv.

Re:Not exactly "gray goo" (1)

Have Blue (616) | more than 9 years ago | (#12504754)

No, but suppose it was paired with another machine that did nothing but construct robot parts from raw materials and place them in a known location?

Re:Not exactly "gray goo" (1)

Chris Burke (6130) | more than 9 years ago | (#12504858)

Clearly, what is needed is spare parts for self-assembling robots which are capable of producing more spare parts from simpler materials, e.g. a robot leg that can make more robot legs for the robots to assemble into more robots. Those simpler materials also need self-replicating ability. Just keep recursing until you've got extremely simple parts making more of themselves from dirt. Bonus points for self-replicating dirt!

Assault Rifles ... (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#12504636)

not just for commies anymore!

Korobeiniki (0)

NTiOzymandias (753325) | more than 9 years ago | (#12504638)

That is so unbelievably cool that I found myself downloading rock covers of the Tetris theme song to listen to while I rewatched the video.....

Re:Korobeiniki (1)

badboy_tw2002 (524611) | more than 9 years ago | (#12504709)

So you're saying it was so cool you had to do something extremely nerdy to balance out the cool, lest you start driving a motorcycle, smoking Camels, and refer to women as "babe"?

Re:Korobeiniki (1)

01000011011101000111 (868998) | more than 9 years ago | (#12504765)

Gaaa now I need to download Rebel w/o a cause and buy myself a harley... damn yous!!!!

Pfft (1)

NTiOzymandias (753325) | more than 9 years ago | (#12504842)

Nerdy ~= cool. Now get out of the 70s and help me beat the other posters to the "in Soviet Russia" finish line.

Video is really slow (4, Funny)

ravenspear (756059) | more than 9 years ago | (#12504641)

If only webservers could replicate themselves whenever they detect the /. effect.

Re:Video is really slow (2, Interesting)

mark-t (151149) | more than 9 years ago | (#12504732)

This could be done, if web browsers themselves would effectively function as mirrors for a site for as long as the person using that browser stays on that site. Operating somewhat like a torrent, the first visitor to a site would essentially act as a seed, and then future visitors would receive the IP's of other visitors to the same page, and they would download the page contents from eachother. As the number of visitors drops, the original server could be more readily able to handle seeding other visitors.

/.'ed; Coral link to Movie (5, Informative)

OctaneZ (73357) | more than 9 years ago | (#12504648)

Coralized Movie []

robot genitalia? (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#12504649)

my name Igor. me want breeding cyber

sorry english

New Public Service Announcement (3, Funny)

what_the_frell (690581) | more than 9 years ago | (#12504650)

"Please have your pets, er, I mean robots spayed or neutered".

Nature? (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#12504651)

Isn't that a little like having Darwin write a chapter in the bible?

assembly out of three pre-made parts (2)

Fanro (130986) | more than 9 years ago | (#12504665)

the article talks about robots assembling copies of themselves by joining *three* pre-manufactured parts, which have magnetic joints for easier assembly.

does not sound that impressive to me.
And i find it doubtfully that noone was able to do this before. more like noone tried.

The Matrix Part Un (1)

DeanMeister (868655) | more than 9 years ago | (#12504672)

That's pretty cool. I mean, NOW it's cool. It won't be cool in 300 years when we've all been replaced. It's all fun and games until someone loses a war.

But in all seriousness thats a really cool invention, but what can you use that for? Why are they spending money on making mini robots that copy themselves? I mean, sure it's cool to say "oooh ahhhh" but what practical purpose does that serve? Maybe I'm missing something in all that.

Re:The Matrix Part Un (1)

periol (767926) | more than 9 years ago | (#12504826)


Re:The Matrix Part Un (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#12504873)

Pop rocks (tm) were created by some dude trying to come up with powdered soda pop. sometimes things end up being useful for other than the intended purpose. Besides its a good start

download slowing.... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#12504673)

my download of the video is getting slower by the second. in believe their server is melting.

No doubt robots will soon be getting porn spam (2, Funny)

GregoryKJohnson (717981) | more than 9 years ago | (#12504676)

"Oh! Oh!" it synthesized. "What hard metal! Torque me baby! Torque me with a large magnitude of F-cross-r! Oh!"

These robots are missing out (2, Funny)

mark-t (151149) | more than 9 years ago | (#12504682)

Reproduction is much more fun with two.

"I for one welcome our new overlords..." jokes (1)

Embedded Geek (532893) | more than 9 years ago | (#12504683)

In 3, 2, 1...

Re:"I for one welcome our new overlords..." jokes (1)

what_the_frell (690581) | more than 9 years ago | (#12504768)

Too late. []

D'ho! (1)

Embedded Geek (532893) | more than 9 years ago | (#12504817)

I for one welcome

Re:D'ho! (squared) (1)

Embedded Geek (532893) | more than 9 years ago | (#12504841)

I was about to say "I for one welcome posters such as myself who fail to refresh the main page of a story."

But, being that such a comment is unwieldy at best and that I hit the frickin' return key too early to post without any preview, let's just stick with a simple "D'ho!"

Self-replicate? (1)

RoadkillBunny (662203) | more than 9 years ago | (#12504690)

Uhm, dosn't someone still need to make the cubes?

The Evolution of Leggo? (4, Informative)

Ted Holmes (827243) | more than 9 years ago | (#12504701)

In October 2004, I began tracking the rise of personal fabricators [] . Inkjets hacked into crude replicators.

In March 2005, we discovered engineers at the University of Bath working on a machine that can rapid prototype and replicate itself [] .

Researchers Hod Lipson and Jordan B. Pollack at Brandeis University have coupled inkjet technology and software to autonomously design and fabricate robots [] without human intervention.

Neil Gershenfeld, director of MIT Center for Bits and Atoms, who runs a one-semester smash-hit class called "How to Make Almost Anything", is determined to produce affordable, replicating personal fabricators by 2025 [] .

And today Hod Lipson has announced the arrival of simple self replicating robots with enormous potential.


More complex shapes are possible in principle, such as adding grippers, cameras, new sensors etc. to modules. A robot could assemble itself into a new structure to deal with novel events. Also points a way to self-repairing robots.

Nanomachines: Lipson is interested in making these machines at microscale. That could drive major advances in Nanotechnology because huge numbers of robots are needed to manufacture things at a molecular scale. Self-replication is how biology does it.


Could change the way almost everything is manufactured. Machines that clone themselves are a key factor in the near horizon revolution of digital fabrication [] .

The movie (accelerated 4X) is eerie to watch. It's easy to imagine a clutter of cubes picking themselves up and walking towards you.

Ahhh! Yellow Devil! (1)

DarkGamer20X6 (695175) | more than 9 years ago | (#12504802)

It's easy to imagine a clutter of cubes picking themselves up and walking towards you.

Maybe I've been playing too much of the Mega Man Anniversary Collection recently, but I just pictured a mass of these robots flying across the room only to join into one large robot that starts firing laser bullets out of its eye at me.

Stop this research now!

Let's get these out of the way ... (1, Funny)

rkmath (26375) | more than 9 years ago | (#12504725)

(1) I for one welcome our self-replicating robot ...

(2) Imagine a Beowulf cluster ...

(3) Not all robots can replicate, you insensitive clod ...

(4) In soviet Russia, robot replicates robot (?)

In Soviet Russia Robots replicate You! (1, Funny)

screwthemoderators (590476) | more than 9 years ago | (#12504756)

Think about this one- clones of yourself running around, posting on Slashdot... The Horror, the Horror!

Re:Let's get these out of the way ... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#12504870)

(5) Profit???

Re:Let's get these out of the way ... (1)

Phleg (523632) | more than 9 years ago | (#12504892)

Think about this one- clones of yourself running around, posting on Slashdot... The Horror, the Horror.

Edward F. Moore's 1959 self-reproducers (4, Interesting)

dpbsmith (263124) | more than 9 years ago | (#12504753)

How is this any more impressive than what Edward F. Moore did in 1959? There was a Scientific American article about it, and I saw him demonstrate it at a lecture in the late sixties.

Basically he had a two-dimension row of pieces, rather like jigsaw puzzle pieces, held upright between two pieces of plexiglass. The pieces had just the right shape; they were basically diamonds with a truncated bottom (so they sat in one particular orientation) and sides. Initially they'd all be sitting flat. He would "add heat" by shaking the contraption laterally. Nothing would happen, because the blunt ends would hit against each other.

Then he'd take two of them and tilt them and slide them together, producing a single two-celled "organism." There were little hook-like projections that held them together.

He would shake the thing again. This time, because the two "cells" were tilted, their ends would scoop up underneath the blunt ends of the neighboring "cells," tilting them up into the proper position to hook together too.

So, when he shook the thing in its initial state, nothing would happen. But when locked two of them together into a "creature" and shook them, they caused the other "cells" to assemble into two-celled organisms just like the original one.

In other words, the organism had created copies of itself.

It really worked; there was no deception; after the lecture practically everyone swarmed around and played with the thing and it didn't require any sleight-of-hand twists of the wrist.

I thought it was a strained tour-de-force then, and I think these "self-replicating robots" are just a fancier example of the same thing.

isn't it ironic? (1)

gahzinia (816336) | more than 9 years ago | (#12504760)

"Writing in Nature, the robot's creators say their experiment shows the ability to reproduce is not unique to biology."

Isn't it ironic that they write about robots self replicating in "Nature?"

Bad sci movie, here we come.. (1)

EvilStein (414640) | more than 9 years ago | (#12504772)

This reminds me of the movie "Screamers" and the evil self replicating robots.

(actually, not a bad movie.)

Or.. how long before Skynet decides we're all rubbish and tries to obliterate us? ;)

SG-1 Anyone? (1)

Veroxii (51114) | more than 9 years ago | (#12504778)

Why the hell would we want to do this? The Asgard's been fighting them for millenia. How do we with out puny little brains think we'll do any better?

Talk some sense into them Jack!!!

Dyson (3, Interesting)

Rand310 (264407) | more than 9 years ago | (#12504780)

Freeman Dyson had the great example of self-replicating robots in his book 'Disturbing the Universe.'

Imagine sending a quarter-pound payload of a well-programed robot of such construction to something like one of Jupiter's icy moons. It is as small as needed to do the following tasks: replicating twice, grab a small piece of the ice on the moon as cargo, and then launching itself with some element in the ice as fuel towards mars. That's all it is programmed to do.

In x amount of time you have a mars with oceans. Astroid mining could also work on similar principles.

Regardless of how plausible or crazy the above ideas are, the concept is gorgeous for people... The investment in one such machine can yield payoffs of millions/billions of man-hours of labor, in places man can exist etc.

There is always the observation of slavery/exploitation if such a machine can replicate. Or even fears of Matrix/virus-like behavior which continues uncontrollably. But it is an interesting idea to think about. Rarely can a human investment of time provide such a staggering turnaround in product.

Interesting concept, even if it does still resemble science-fiction.

Self replication vs grey goo (4, Informative)

Bifurcati (699683) | more than 9 years ago | (#12504785)

As other posters have pointed out, this sort of self replication is a long way from the feared "grey goo" effect, where the robots eventually cover the planet. Here, the pieces are pre-assembled, and the robots simply combine them in the appropriate way to make more robots. The "grey goo" idea is a particular feature of nanobots, where the robots are on the order of a nanometre across, and can replicate using simple compounds (e.g., the robots in Michael Crichton's Swarm "eat" metals from computers and other electronics and reform them into the necessary circuits and mechanical bits). The idea is that if enough of them got together, we would see a grey goo, that could self replicate and spread.

But it does mean that self-replicating robots are, unsurprisingly, possible, and that if the robots could be made simpler, they could perhaps replicate using simpler pieces, and so forth.

More importantly, if you gave the robots a whole bunch of pieces (basically, the equivalent of Lego blocks) they could perhaps replicate and reproduce into shapes that best suit their environment - they're modular and expandable, which might have important applications (e.g., rescue, exploration, etc).

Holy Heebie-Jeebies, Batman! (2)

TheGuano (851573) | more than 9 years ago | (#12504789)

I love technology as much as the next guy (maybe not in this crowd), but seeing that thing sent shivers up my spine.

I can just see them in nano-scale, coursing through my blood and rewiring my brain.

Why Share? (1)

craXORjack (726120) | more than 9 years ago | (#12504803)

Their long-term plan is to design robots made from hundreds or thousands of identical basic modules.

These could repair themselves if parts fail, reconfigure themselves to better perform the task they have been set, or even to make extra helpers.

Until one of them decides to attach all the modules to itself and become the uberbot.

If they are autonomous then why would they disassemble themselves to give up their bodies to another? If they are all centrally controlled then this is not as remarkable as the author implies since it is then just a case of having lots of interchangeable parts available. And I suspect that a specialized robot would be much more efficient at any particular task. OTOH being able to rejigger a robot which is bogged down on the surface of mars so it could climb out of a crater would be pretty useful.

Jeebus! Rubik's snake is alive! (1)

snuf23 (182335) | more than 9 years ago | (#12504805)

What's next? Will they roll up into the ball shape and terrorize the neighborhood? Shift into the dog shape and be taken home by some poor unsuspecting child?
The horror!

Human-Form Replicators (5, Funny)

Dachannien (617929) | more than 9 years ago | (#12504807)

Well, if they make one that looks like Amanda Tapping, sign me up. I don't even care if it's evil!

Serv-o-tron (1)

nate nice (672391) | more than 9 years ago | (#12504808)

"Now that we can build ourselves, we'll never end!"

Self replicating German Robot dogs? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#12504811)

Funded by Microsoft?

I mean, come on. Don't you know where this is heading?

OMG it's the replicators! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#12504820)

Hope Jack O'neill helps us out!

I have a better design (2, Insightful)

exp(pi*sqrt(163)) (613870) | more than 9 years ago | (#12504832)

Rather than have robots made out of prefabricated cubes, why not prefabricate the entire robot. Then when a robot wants to reproduce it just has to say "make it so" and lo! and behold! there's another prefabricated robot sitting there. I don't see that this is any less reproduction than this example. Of course, if you use the log probability measure mentioned in the paper it doesn't score too well but that could be fixed by giving each robot an on/off switch that another robot can press.

I'm sure I've seen more bogus papers than usual go by recently.

Homage to 2001? (1)

fsck! (98098) | more than 9 years ago | (#12504885)

"Space applications clearly come to mind. If you're sending a robot to one of Jupiter's moons, and the robot breaks, then the mission is over," Dr Lipson told the BBC.

This is great. I wonder if Dr Lipson picked that scenario knowing the images it would conjure up. Even better if you consider that The BBC had a cameo in the film.
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