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Elvis lives

作者:漆胆撖    发布时间:2019-03-07 14:04:02    

By Duncan Graham-Rowe IT TAKES humans a year or so to learn to stand and walk on two legs, but a Swedish robot called Elvis might do it in a matter of weeks. If Elvis, a 40-centimetre-tall humanoid, manages to stand at all, it will be a remarkable feat. Designing robots that can balance well has proved to be extremely difficult. So rather than trying to do it themselves, Elvis’s creators plan to let “evolutionary” software do all the hard work. The researchers, at Gothenborg University in Sweden, plan to use algorithms that mimic genetic mutation to “breed” the robot’s control systems by natural selection. They hope this will let Elvis not only stand but also walk, navigate and perceive the world—all without anyone knowing exactly how it does it. According to Peter Nordin, the project coordinator, tough problems such as balance are often skirted around in robot building because they are so difficult to solve. But with Elvis, they have tried to tackle the problem head on by making the robot as unconstrained as possible, so it can work in a world designed for humans. “People are the standard for almost all interactions in our world—tools and machines are adapted to the abilities, motion capabilities and geometry of humans,” says Nordin. Elvis was named after the king of rock’n’roll because they “thought it had very good hip movement”, say Anders Eriksson, the team’s artificial intelligence expert. The robot resembles the foot soldiers in Star Wars Episode 1: The Phantom Menace. It lacks skin and has a steel skeleton on which are mounted various devices, such as pressure sensors, limb actuators and gyroscopes that check its orientation, as well as cameras and microphones. The evolutionary routine works in much the same way as the biological process. A simple control system is designed as a starting point, and the string of binary data that describes it is treated as though it were genetic code—a digital “chromosome”. This code is randomly mutated a hundred times and each product is given a fitness evaluation—in the case of Elvis, based on how well he balances. The best are bred together to produce a new and hopefully even better chromosome. This is then mutated again, and the process repeated until a chromosome is produced that does the job robustly and efficiently. During the evaluation process, Elvis will sit in a harness to prevent it from damaging itself when it falls over. Sensors in its feet and gyroscopes will detect when it is about to topple. Since hundreds of mutations have to be evaluated, the process should take weeks to complete. Already, Elvis’s vision and auditory systems have been “evolved”, enabling Elvis to see and hear. “What we hope for is that we can evolve a way of walking so the robot moves smoothly, conserves energy and balances when provoked,” says Nordin. The team will report on their progress next month at the European Conference on Artificial Life in Lausanne,

 

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