Imagination Engines Inc claims to have developed a robot able to learn and dream. According to its President & CEO, Dr. Stephen Thaler, the company has developed neural networks that can spontaneously connect themselves in a matter of seconds into the neural circuitry required for extremely ambitious robotic brains. This development is registered under the US Patent 5,852,815, “Neural Network Based Prototyping System and Method”.
Dr Thaler says that this resulting neural network architecture both resembles and functions like a brain, a collection of individual neural networks fused into a contemplative system that can form complete models of their worlds, consider alternative scenarios, and finally choose that alternative best suited to a given problem. Like human brains, they think, experiment, and automatically perfect their behaviors to produce downright unexpected results, what can only be called creativity.
In a press release, the company has described the methodology used to accelerate the learning and the bootstrap toward creative behaviors. Rather than carry robots to various world settings and wait for different kinds of challenging scenarios to arise in order to enrich their learning experience, IEI’s robots effectively go to sleep and enter a virtual dream world wherein they experience myriad settings and situations against which they may pit their accumulating knowledge and creativity. When they awake, they may apply their dream state training to the real world, or use such experience to devise even more ambitious responses to newly arising environmental scenarios.
Recently, in an experiment conducted for the DoD, IEI scientists and engineers built a complex hexapod robot that effectively began life as a kind of “cybernetic road kill,” essentially a heap of tangled legs and electronics that learned how to walk in a period of only minutes. Continuing its learning in virtual reality, it self-originated new methodologies for navigating complex facilities and landscapes, as well as novel kinds of locomotion wherein it assumed bipedal stances to quickly evade threats. Awakened from its virtual reality test environment, it could then carry out similar behaviors in reality.