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Last Updated: Tuesday, 24 April 2007, 11:57 GMT 12:57 UK
Scientists to build robot society
At least 60 robots will be used to create the robot village
Scientists in Dundee have announced plans to create a "robot village" in an effort to learn how different cultures emerge in society.

The University of Abertay's four-year study will feature about 60 miniature robots who will be organised into groups and programmed to interact.

The project team plans to observe the robots to see how they behave together.

The university will undertake the study along with five other institutions across the UK.

Scientists say the robots will be organised into groups or "villages" and told to observe then copy each other's behaviour in different situations.

In a sense we will be using robots like a microscope to study the evolution of culture.
Professor John Crawford
Theoretical biologist

The team believes that when one robot copies another's behaviour it will be slightly different, creating unpredictable results.

Theoretical biologist Professor John Crawford said: "Of course the behaviours which emerge and evolve will not be human but decidedly robotic.

"One of our key challenges in this research will be to identify and interpret these patterns of behaviour as evidence for an emerging robot culture.

"If so, this new understanding may shed some light generally on how culture emerges and whether this has any implications for human, animal or artificial societies."

New behaviours

Once the robots have been interacting for a period of time the project team plan to alter the conditions of the experiment to assess whether the robots adapt their behaviour to the new conditions.

Both phases of the experiment will be alternated several times over a period of months, with scientists hoping that over time the robots will learn and copy new behaviours.

Professor Crawford added: "In a sense we will be using robots like a microscope to study the evolution of culture."

The research, costing more than 700,000, is being funded by the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council.

A consortium of universities, including the University of Exeter, Warwick, Manchester and the West of England will take part in the study along with researchers from Leeds Metropolitan University.

Robot future poses hard questions
24 Apr 07 |  Technology

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