Thursday, January 7, 1999 Published at 12:18 GMT
Best brain boosts artificial life
This robo-kitten, being designed by Michael Korkin of Genobyte, will be first to use the brain
The world's most complex artificial brain ever is being developed in Colorado - its purpose is to provide the brainpower for a robot kitten called Robokoneko.
The brain is due to be completed in March and its developers hope it will for the first time allow a robot to interact with stimuli in its environment to develop the sort of intelligence seen in animals, becoming one of the first superstars of artificial life.
"Observers won't need a PhD to appreciate that there is a brain behind it," says Hugo de Garis of Advanced Telecommunications Research in Kyoto, Japan, the brain's principal architect. De Garis's Cellular Automata Machine (CAM) brain is being built under contract by Genobyte, a company in Boulder, Colorado.
"Real" artificial neurons
Each neuron is composed of transistors grouped together in cells. These cells can also simulate the axons and dendrites that connect neurons.
Programming by evolution
Neural networks need to "learn" to perform particular tasks, but no human programmer could write the software needed to teach a network as complex as the CAM brain. Instead, this will be generated using an approach that simulates biological evolution, says New Scientist magazine, which announced the development.
The "genetic material" that describes the structure and connections of the network will be evolved over many generations of random mutations and breeding to get the optimum design.
Bigger but not better
Some experts are still sceptical that building ever bigger neural networks will deliver new discoveries in understanding how our brains create consciousness. "The point is that these puzzles are not puzzles because our neural models are not large enough," argued Igor Aleksander, a neural systems engineer at Imperial College London in New Scientist.
The robot cat, Robokoneko, will not be built until tests have been completed on a computer simulation. The CAM brain's developers admit that they cannot predict exactly how it will perform when it is linked to Robokoneko.
But, said Michael Korkin of Genobyte, "What is so special about this neural network is a much higher degree of biological relevance."