OT: Jonny 5 descendant learns to fly

A robot has taught itself the principles of flying -- learning in just three hours what evolution took millions of years to achieve, according to research by Swedish scientists.

I wish I could fly way up to the sky, but I can't. Oh wait... I can! :D

Krister Wolff and Peter Nordin of Chalmers University of Technology built a robot with wings and then gave it random instructions through a computer at the rate of 20 per second.

Each instruction produced a small movement -- the robot's wings could move up and down, forwards and backwards, and twist in either direction, the research published in the New Scientist magazine said on Wednesday. The robot was attached to two vertical poles to enable it to move up and down, and the metre-long wings were made from balsa-wood covered with a light plastic film.

The programme instructed the robot its aim was to produce maximum lift, but had no pre-programmed data on the concept of flapping or how to do it. At first the robot produced only twitching and jerking movements but gradually it succeeded in getting off the ground.

Feedback from a movement detector told the programme how successful each combination of instructions tried had been, enabling it to evolve by ditching unsuccessful ones and pairing up new combinations of the ones that produced most lift. But after three hours the robot discovered a flapping technique -- rotating its wings through 90 degrees, raising them, then twisting back to the horizontal before pushing back down.

News source: Reuters UK

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