Scientists have created a self-aware robot capable of operating on its own without any instructions, in a major scientific breakthrough.
Engineers at Columbia University, in New York, have reached a pinnacle in robotics inventions, inventing a mechanical arm able to programme itself – even after it is malfunctioned.
Professor Hod Lipson, who leads the Creative Machines lab, where the research was carried out, likened the robotic arm to how a “newborn child” adapts to their environment and learns things on its own.
The group of scientists claimed this is the first time a robot has shown the ability to “imagine itself” and work out its purpose, figuring out how to operate without inbuilt mechanics. In the study, published in the journal Science Robotics, Prof Lipson said: “This is perhaps what a newborn child does in its crib, as it learns what it is.
“We conjecture that this advantage may have also been the evolutionary origin of self-awareness in humans.
“While our robot’s ability to imagine itself is still crude compared to humans, we believe that this ability is on the path to machine self-awareness.”
The mechanical arm was designed with no knowledge of physics, geometry or dynamics.
After spending around 35 hours moving at random, the mechanism was able to grasp intensive computing knowledge and figure out its capabilities.
Shortly after the mechanical arm was able to construct its own biomechanics, allowing it to cleverly pick up and drop objects.
The robot also performed other tasks such as writing using a marker.
The researchers printed a 3D-deformed part to simulate a damaged part, to see if the robot was able to detect the fault and adapt its mechanics.
The arm was able to detect the malfunction, and retrained its system to continue performing tasks despite the damaged part.