Europe South Asia Asia Pacific Americas Middle East Africa BBC Homepage World Service Education
BBC Homepagelow graphics version | feedback | help
BBC News Online
 You are in: Sci/Tech
Front Page 
UK Politics 
Talking Point 
In Depth 

BBC TW video
Watch Robo-monkey take a swing
 real 28k

Wednesday, 2 February, 2000, 15:01 GMT
Thinking is robot's play

The robot is helping to develop artificial intelligence

For all their sophisticated mechanics, most robots are not usually very clever.

monk Robo-monkey must first swing its legs
Put something in their way and they will bump into it - and they will keep bumping into the object until you remove it.

But scientists are developing machines that can learn from experience and evolve behaviour.

Take Robo-monkey. It is an example of the new generation of machines that incorporate artificial intelligence, and is featured in Wednesday's edition of the BBC Science programme Tomorrow's World.

Unique problems

Robo-monkey is the product of 15 years of study by a team of researchers led by Dr Toshio Fukuda at Nagoya University, Japan.

monk Balls help it find its way around in space
The robot will swing like a gibbon from branch to branch - or rung to rung on a horizontal ladder set up in the laboratory. The research team chose to study swinging, or brachiation, because it has a set of unique problems that need to be solved.

Robo-monkey has 14 motors controlling a fully-articulated body and a computer brain to direct all its movements.

The human instructors have told it some equations for swinging and the distance between the rungs - it must do the rest.

Trial and error

The first thing the robot does is kick its legs to initiate the crucial pendulum motion that will allow it to reach out for the first hand hold. The metal creature's progress down the track is a case of trial and error. When it fails to grasp a rung, Robo-monkey must work out why and try again.

monk The robot must reach out for the next branch
Coloured balls on the limbs combined with stereo vision tell the robot where its arms are in space. And the data is updated 60 times a second to provide the realtime information needed to complete different tasks involved in swinging successfully.

Robo-monkey looks impressive.

Swinging itself may not be a skill that is much use to 21st Century robots but the knowledge being built from this experiment will certainly lead to machines that are more interactive and self-reliant.

Tomorrow's World is broadcast on BBC One on Wednesday's at 1930 GMT. And yes we do know that gibbons are apes and not monkeys.

Search BBC News Online

Advanced search options
Launch console

See also:
17 Sep 99 |  Sheffield 99
Robot volleyball short circuits
11 May 99 |  Sci/Tech
Robo-pup attacks toy market
26 Feb 99 |  Sci/Tech
Robot fish to resurrect fossils
07 Jan 99 |  Sci/Tech
Best brain boosts artificial life

Internet links:

The BBC is not responsible for the content of external internet sites
Links to other Sci/Tech stories are at the foot of the page.

E-mail this story to a friend

Links to more Sci/Tech stories