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Robot Imagines Itself (Not The First Time This Has Happened)

A recent story claimed that - for the first time - a robot has learned to imagine itself.

“We were really curious to see how the robot imagined itself,” said Hod Lipson, professor of mechanical engineering and director of Columbia’s Creative Machines Lab, where the work was done. “But you can’t just peek into a neural network, it’s a black box.” After the researchers struggled with various visualization techniques, the self-image gradually emerged. “It was a sort of gently flickering cloud that appeared to engulf the robot’s three-dimensional body,” said Lipson. “As the robot moved, the flickering cloud gently followed it.” The robot’s self-model was accurate to about 1% of its workspace.

The ability of robots to model themselves without being assisted by engineers is important for many reasons: Not only does it save labor, but it also allows the robot to keep up with its own wear-and-tear, and even detect and compensate for damage.

The work is part of Lipson’s decades-long quest to find ways to grant robots some form of self-awareness. “Self-modeling is a primitive form of self-awareness,” he explained. “If a robot, animal, or human, has an accurate self-model, it can function better in the world, it can make better decisions, and it has an evolutionary advantage.”

(Via SciTechDaily)

Technovelgy readers have known about Professor Lipson's work for many years. In this Technovelgy article from 2006, Professor Lipson and associates regard one of my personal favorite robots - a starfish. (See Starfish Robot Shows Robotic Introspection And Self-Modeling.)


(Starfish robot and friends [L->R, Zykov, Bongard, Lipson])

An interesting prediction of this idea can be found in the 1949 short story Unforeseen, by Roger P. Graham, published by Fantastic Adventures in 1949:

...it will take at least two years to synthesize their minds to the point where they are as capable as an adult.”

“Two years!” came a chorus of voices. “That long?”

“I think that a remarkably short period,” Horace said with his first show of temper. “After all they start out like a newborn babe and have to discover their hands, feet, and other parts of their bodies. They have to learn just like a human baby, except that they are full size to start with."
(Read more about robot introspection)

Scroll down for more stories in the same category. (Story submitted 2/5/2023)

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