University of Vermont

Department of Computer Science

Robot, heal thyself: UVM professor airs results on Discovery Channel

Release Date: 11-17-2006

Author: CEMS Communications

Joshua BongardOn November 16 and 17, 2006, the Discovery Channels in both Canada and the U.S. will air results of research done by Dr. Joshua Bongard on robots that can self-heal. In conjunction with this, Dr. Bongard's research article, "Resilient Machines Through Continuous Self Modeling," will appear in the November 17 issue of Science Magazine. Dr. Bongard is an assistant professor in the Department of Computer Science within the University of Vermont's College of Engineering and Mathematical Sciences (CEMS).

Robots "Learn" to Self-Heal

Dr. Bongard's research, done for NASA and the U.S. Department of Energy while Bongard was at Cornell University, involved a homemade robot where one robotic leg was removed. The robot was programmed to perform damage assessment by moving in sequences that may look playful but allow the robot to determine where damage has occurred. Once the damage is identified, the robot then self-creates a new way to move without the missing limb and therefore is able to carry on its mission.

"The research is essential for NASA," said Dr. Bongard, "[because] there is a need for planetary robotic rovers to be able to fix things on their own." Robots on planetary missions must be able to continue their work without human intervention in the event they are damaged and cannot communicate their problem back to Earth. "Our robot is able to detect — without a camera — that something is wrong," Bongard explains, "and teach itself to continue to walk in spite of incurred damage."

Dr. Bongard intends to use robot construction kits, such as Lego Mindstorms, to continue his research at UVM, and will involve undergraduate and graduate students in the process.

the Body Shapes the Way We Think

A Book on the Nature of Intelligence

Dr. Bongard, together with co-author Rolf Pfeifer at the University of Zurich, has also recently published a popular science book on the nature of intelligence. How the Body Shapes the Way We Think: A New View of Intelligence discusses the primary role that the body plays in enabling intelligent behavior, rather than the common view that intelligence arises in the brain. The book covers material spanning psychology, engineering, robotics, embedded technology, cyborgs, and the future of adaptive corporations.

For More Information

To read more about this project, see The View's Josh Bongard Q+A. Or for more information, contact Dr. Josh Bongard at