ECCEROBOT, billed by its designers at the University of Sussex as the “world’s first anthropomimetic robot,” was designed to mimic the form and function of the human body. Engineers created a synthetic skeleton to which they attached synthetic tendons and “muscles” with the goal of developing a robot that moves and interacts with the world as we do. Ultimately, researchers want to know if and how having a human-like body may help the machine develop human-like intelligence.
The concept is interesting and I think this type of research, from an engineering standpoint, could potentially have great use for development of artificial limbs and bionic body parts, which users require to match “the originals” as closely as possible. As an generalized approach for building humanoid robots, however, I’m not convinced that trying to copy biology as closely as possible is the most efficient or effective way to go. After all, biology and evolution are messy, and even if we did want to copy biological structures exactly, we are far from having adequate technology and materials to do so.
Given these physical limitations I’m interested to see how the software that powers ECCEROBOT might “learn” and develop. An alternative approach with the same goal might be letting an AI interact with avatars and virtual objects in a detailed virtual world, but again, we’ve got a long way to go before that becomes a viable research path.
ECCEROBOT and other humanoid robots are going to be featured in a BBC documentary, “The Hunt for AI,” which will air tomorrow.