Self-Replicating Robot News
Posted 13 May 2005 at 16:02 UTC by steve
News stories about a new self-replicating robot seem to be replicating
faster than the robots themselves based on the number of links The
Swirling Brain has sent our way about this new robot. A Yahoo! News
story says each robot, made of 10cm cubes, can replicate themselves
2.5 minutes as long as the appropriate raw materials are available. An
MSNBC story offers
photos and video of the twisty little robots. Wired also offers video
and photos in their cleverly titled story, "Go
Forth and Multiply, Little Bot". There is also a LinuxInsider
article mentioning that the robots are made of "molecubes". Finally,
the definitive article is the original Cornell press
release which has lots more photos. For more technical information,
step-by-step photos, and a cut-away diagram of the internal mechanisms
visit the Self
Replication research site at Cornell. The
Researchers also provide an
article describing the machines (PDF format) and a paper
emergence of self-replicating, competing cube species in physical cube
automata" (PDF format).
Want more?, posted 13 May 2005 at 16:06 UTC by steve »
Just after posting the story, another user submitted a link to a story
in The Register on the same self-replicating robots. It's pretty
funny with choice quotes about the "apocalypse cube" such as "a Cornell
University research team has developed a self-replicating cube which has
the ability to assemble itself into civilisation-threatening
Doesn't this thing remind you of the "CORE" cube robot nutter that
always plagued the alt.robotics newsgroups for so long!
IT's hard for me to be impressed with this seemingly major
achievement. I mean, this thing is a bunch of premade robot blocks!
All this thing is doing is moving them into a various piles! This, in
my opinion, can barely be called reproducing and the premade blocks can
hardly be called raw materials. But, I guess symantics rules the day
as they are using terms like "feeding trough" as the place where the
robot can pick up more raw materials (premade blocks). All these terms
(reproducing, raw materials, and feeding trough) are all stretching it
a bit to claim their great achievement! I mean is it an achievement? I
suppose it is, but again all the media coverage over so trivial an
achievement? Wow! I mean I'm sure this thing is hardcoded to move
these blocks into position and that's probably all it can do. So you
start with X number of blocks and it produces, nothing. You still have
X number of blocks. Lets put some metal and ICs, resistors, some
batteries, a breadboard and a soldering iron in a room and when a robot
can reproduce itself as a human would make a robot from real raw
materials I'd be more impressed. At least have the premade blocks be
in two (or more) pieces that have to be put together. But I guess, as
with all robotics, we just take baby steps. Again, sorry for my lack
of being impressed. Perhaps I should be more impressed but I'm not.
I'm gonna say that I greet this with a mixed bag. What they've done is
alright, but hardly what's being claimed.
Okay, they're not making robots from raw materials. I've seen it
mentioned that humans don't make humans from raw materials either. We
get bacteria, plants, and animals to make building blocks for us. We
just assemble them. <<cough>> semantics<<cough>>
As an exercise in modular/cellular/reconfigurable robotics this is er...
alright. If we send a load of cubes to Mars then they can assemble
themselves into lots of different types of robot. Looking at the way
that they can revolve, I'd like to see them try to use outer blocks as
wheels... The cubes mean that the composite robots can essentially
repair themselves. However, the demonstration that we can see seems to
involve the cubes clamping themselves to a special floor. For that
matter, how come those spare cubes magically appear?
Someone on <HREF="www.oaps.org">Old Age Playstationers</A> noted that
they look like chips. Personally I think they look well creepy.
Similar robots have been in development for some years now. I doubt
that civilisation is at any real risk, but this sort of self-assembling
technology will be very useful indeed. The obvious application is in
the construction industry.
Traditionally assembling architectural structures such as houses or
offices has been a highly expensive and labour intensive business.
Provided that these robots can be made at negligable cost and are
sufficiently robust they could be used to eliminate a lot of labour from
the construction process. Just have a truck dump a load of these at the
required site, then use a wireless network signal to program each cube
with the necessary program and then leave them to it. Once the
self-assembly process is completed another wireless network signal fixes
the entire structure permanently in place.
If at some later date the council wants to drive a motorway through your
house (Hitchhiker's guide style) a wireless network signal along with
the appropriate security code is used to unfix and dissasemble the
structure, and the cubes can then be completely recycled. It would be
very straightforward and economical, with little or no waste.
Personally, I'm impressed.