The creators of the world’s first living robots have announced that their work, which was initiated at West Virginia University and Dartmouth College, now has a high enough resumé to be rated in the best artificial intelligence category.
“Two years ago, I was asked to put my robotic system to the test,” said Howard Rosenberg, an assistant professor of ecology at West Virginia University and the current project director. “The results of my applications to the scientific community resulted in publications in four academic journals, including the prestigious journal Science. Now, my system has been rated number 1 in the machine learning category by a panel of judges in a ‘Grand Challenges for Science’ competition sponsored by the US National Science Foundation.”
The project has had the most visible impact in animal sciences and conservation science. The results are dramatic. One experiment showed that two rats which were dosed with slow-release painkillers became inactivated and brain dead without the drugs. But the system of drugs used to kill them, called light focused pulses, use lasers that the rats can see but not detect. A simple algorithm used by the system allowed the researchers to identify the cause of the death within seconds, and there was no detectable damage to the rats’ brains. “What surprised me is that animals can live in a language that computers can’t understand,” said Rosenberg. “This has allowed us to teach robots to see the robot, to read the map, to open and close their mouths, and to smell and taste their food and water.” The technology behind the robots, known as convolutional neural networks, has been used in famous applications like Apple’s Siri, Waze’s traffic systems and other smartphone apps.
The demonstration of the performance of the robots will appear next year in Science Advances. (The technology also brings with it a potential danger—before long, we will all be able to hire robots to take our jobs).”
It is up to governments to ensure that governments provide funding to develop this new generation of living robots, and make sure that the industries are created for them to work and that they can thrive and grow.”
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