Monday, December 30, 2013

Robot Menagerie

Robots are on the rise.  Skynet is not yet self-aware, but the fact that even Google and Amazon have now decided to place big bets on them reflects the new robotic Zeitgeist.  Interestingly, rather than start entirely from scratch, the designs of many robots are being drawn directly from biology.  Boston Dynamics - a recent Google acquisition - exemplifies this trend.  Its robots include BigDog, LittleDog, Cheetah, and SandFlea.  One of the newest members of Boston Dynamics' mechanized menagerie is WildCat, featured in this video:  
Billions of years of evolution produced extant wild cats - superb runners, jumpers, climbers, and hunters.  Designers of robots are wise to draw upon the fruits of one of the most profoundly powerful forces ever discovered:  Charles Darwin's natural selection.  Perhaps designers will soon expand their efforts beyond the mere products of natural selection, and try to use natural selection itself to design new robots.  The writing of On the Origin of Robots by Means of Natural Selection has begun.