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“Instant Evolution”: New AI Tool Can Design Robots From Scratch In Seconds

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The discovery is the first step towards quest to explore the potential of artificial life.

A team of researchers in the United States has developed an artificial intelligence (AI) programme that can design robots from scratch in seconds. Led by Illinois-based Northwestern University, the team of researchers gave the programme a simple prompt: Design a robot that can walk across a flat surface. The team claimed that the AI programme took a mere 26 seconds to design a walking robot. This new AI programme is not just fast, but can also run on personal computers that do not have mind-boggling hardware, said the researchers.

This is a leap in the development of AI as it presents innovative ideas, unlike the existing tools that only mimic humans’ past works without an ability to generate new ideas.

The study about the discovery has been published in National Academy of Sciences.

“We discovered a very fast AI-driven design algorithm that bypasses the traffic jams of evolution, without falling back on the bias of human designers,” Northwestern University’s Sam Kriegman, who led the work, was quoted as saying by university’s website.

“We told the AI that we wanted a robot that could walk across land. Then we simply pressed a button and presto! It generated a blueprint for a robot in the blink of an eye that looks nothing like any animal that has ever walked the earth. I call this process ‘instant evolution’,” he added.

The new AI programme evaluated the design, found defects, and chipped away at the simulated block to alter its structure with each updated version. The virtual robot eventually developed the ability to bounce, hop, and shuffle.

The discovery is the first step towards research in quest to explore the potential of artificial life.

The robot itself is unassuming – small, squishy and misshapen. And, for now, it is made of inorganic materials. But Mr Kriegman said it represents the first step in a new era of AI-designed tools that, like animals, can act directly on the world.

“When people look at this robot, they might see a useless gadget,” he said. “I see the birth of a brand-new organism.”