Boffin creates self-healing robot

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Boffin creates self-healing robot

Robot, heal thyself.

A US scientist claims to have invented a robot that can 'heal' itself, for example detecting an injury to one of its legs and compensating by inventing a new way to continue walking.

Dr Joshua Bongard, an assistant professor in the Department of Computer Science at the University of Vermont, made the disclosures writing in a research article entitled Resilient Machines Through Continuous Self-Modelling.

"There is a need for planetary robotic rovers to be able to fix things on their own. The research is essential for Nasa, which plans to continue using robots for planetary missions," said Dr Bongard.

"Robots on other planets must be able to continue their mission without human intervention in the event that they are damaged and cannot communicate their problem back to Earth.

"Our robot is able to detect, without a camera, that something is wrong and teach itself to continue to walk in spite of incurred damage."

A homemade robot was used for the experiments where one robotic leg was removed. The robot is programmed to perform damage assessment by moving in sequences that look playful but allow the robot to determine where the damage has occurred.

Once the problem has been identified, the machine creates a new way to move without the missing limb and is able to continue its mission.

Dr Bongard intends to use robot construction kits, such as Lego Mindstorms, to continue his research and involve undergraduate and graduate students in the process.

The research was originally carried out for Nasa and the US Department of Energy by Dr Bongard while at Cornell University prior to his arrival at the University of Vermont.

Dr Bongard's paper will appear in the 17 November edition of Science.
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