Friday, May 29, 2009

Evolving Robot Behavior

Yet another reason why science is freaking amazing. Swiss scientists have a population of robots, and they're watching their behavior evolve. Each robot had LEDs and photodetectors, and its habitat consists of battery-charging "food" zones, and battery-draining "poison" zones. Their programming is initially random, and after they've traveled around their habitat a certain amount of time, the scientists turn them off and select the robots with the highest battery life. The programming from these robots gets combined and is used in the next generation.

Repeated enough times, and you start seeing trends. The robots "learn" to approach the food and stay away from the poison. Not only that, but you see the emergence of cheaters and helpers. Cheaters lure robots to the poison, only to go eat the food now that the other robots are busy being poisoned. And the helpers go stand by the poison and warn other robots with their blinky lights to not come near it.

How freaking cool is that? I for one welcome our new robot overlords. I just hope the equilibrium frequency for cheaters stays low.


  1. Okay that is friggin awesome. Thank you for bringing this to my attention.

  2. Having an IT background, I'm going to go assume the role of the professional wet blanket.

    What those robots are doing is simulating evolutionary behavior. Their programming may be random but it's still framed by certain rules that you outlined in your post. It's a cool proof of natural selection in digital form, but it's really not robot evolution per se.

  3. But it IS evolution of BEHAVIOR, right?

  4. Oh absolutely. Computers and robots can help test theories of how behavior evolves in a particular environment after being given some rules which simulate the conditions organisms would have to deal with.