A team of researchers at Northwestern University has developed the first artificial intelligence (AI) that can design a functioning robot from scratch.

To test the new AI, the researchers gave the system a simple instruction: design a robot that can walk across a flat surface. While nature took billions of years to develop the first walking species, a new algorithm pushed evolution to lightning speed – successfully designing a walking robot in seconds.

The new AI program is not only fast, but also runs on a simple PC and designs completely new structures from scratch. Other AI systems often require power-hungry supercomputers and colossally large data sets. Also, these artificial branch systems are bound by the limitations of human creativity – they only imitate past human works without generating new ideas.

“We discovered a very fast AI-based design algorithm that bypasses the traffic jams of evolution without falling back on the biases of human designers,” said lead researcher Sam Kriegman. “We told the AI ​​that we wanted a robot that would walk the earth. Then we simply pressed a button. In the blink of an eye, it generated a blueprint for a robot unlike any animal that has ever walked the earth.”

The entire design process—from a shapeless block with zero motion to a fully functioning robot—took just 26 seconds on a laptop.

Surprisingly, artificial intelligence arrived at the same solution for walking, similar to nature – legs. But unlike nature’s clearly symmetrical designs, AI took a different approach. The resulting robot has three legs, fins along its back and a flat face. “It’s interesting because we didn’t tell the AI ​​that the robot should have legs,” Kriegman said. “It rediscovered that legs are a good way to move on land. Leg movement is actually the most efficient form of locomotion on land.”

Kriegman and his team used the AI-generated robot as a blueprint to see if the simulated robot could work in real life. First, they 3D printed the negative space around the robot’s body. They then filled the mold with liquid silicone rubber and let it set for a few hours. When the team popped out of the solidified silicone mold, it was squishy and pliable.

“When humans design robots, we tend to design them to look like familiar objects,” Kriegman said. “But artificial intelligence can create new possibilities and new paths that humans have never even considered. It can help us think and dream differently. It can help us solve some of the toughest problems we face.”

Source: Science Daily