Visit Your Local PBS Station PBS Home PBS Home Programs A-Z TV Schedules Watch Video Donate Shop PBS Search PBS









 
 
 
photo of robot
  This may not look like a robot, but it is. What's more, a robot designed it.

Darwinian Natural selection is the process by which populations change over time, becoming more suited to a specific task with each generation. It's how all living creatures on our planet evolved, and it's also how machines may one day learn to replicate themselves.

In “Robot Independence,” Karl Sims, a pioneer in artificial life, simulates natural selection in the virtual world of his computer. Meanwhile, researchers at Brandeis University are taking robot evolution from the desktop to the sidewalk.

Jordan Pollack tells his computer everything it needs to know about Lego bricks. Then he asks it to “evolve” the best design for a Lego structure meant for a specified task. Humans are still needed to build and test the design, using the computer’s blueprint. But Pollack thinks machines designed and manufactured by computers are the wave of the future.

photo of Alan, Lipson and Pollock
Alan chats with Hod Lipson (left) and Jordan Pollack  

Pollack’s student Hod Lipson has already written a program telling his computer how to create a real-world robot. Again, humans must put the final pieces in place, but these cyber creations can inch down the sidewalk with remarkable ease. How long will it be before robots learn to live without us?


return to show page

 

 

 

Noah's Snowball Handmade Humans Robot Independence Alien Worlds I, Robot Resources Teaching guide Science hotline video trailer The Sight of Touch Grow your own brain True or False What's in a dream Monastery of the Mind The Power of Half Contact Search Homepage video trailer Science hotline Teaching guide Resources Profile: Robert Edelman The Knowledge Michelle Geller The brain game