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Net Journal 6

"Anibot," an artificial life form that keeps evolving on the virtual earth (inside computers)

Dr.Furukawa: The second project is "Anibot" (abbreviation for Animation Robot). I once engaged in research on 3D-CAD and intelligent CAD and began the development of Anibot technology by incorporating artificial life technology, agent technology and learning theory. Specifically, a virtual space that has the same physical laws as in the real world is created and artificial life (robots) is placed there. The robots then learn how to move around and keep evolving (Figs.1 & 2). Resistance, such as gravity, water and air, is reproduced in the space, where robots equipped with a sensor, actuator and decision-making functions learn and evolve based on genetic algorithms (GA) while cognizing their surrounding environments. In conventional animation, an animator determines every move and draws pictures or programs into a computer. For Anibot, however, characters themselves determine how to move around. All the animator has to do is to give instructions such as "Walk from here to there." In the future, we would like to develop software with which, even without programming skills, a virtual character of your choice can autonomously develop stories.

Fig.1: Anibot's basic movements

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Fig.2: Evolution of a character

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A sphere pair or cube is dropped from a certain height in space based on the earth's physical laws. Movements of the falling object emerge automatically such as rolling over and bouncing according to gravity and material characteristics.

An alligator-shaped model is placed in space that has the same physical law as the space in Fig.1. Although the model just randomly moves its four limbs at first, it gradually learns how to walk according to a genetic algorithm. This model became capable of walking naturally after evolving approximately 100 generations.

---- It is expected to be applied to various fields, not just the entertainment field, isn't it?

Dr.Furukawa: Yes. Currently, we determine the parameters for such space based on the environment where the earth's physical laws apply, such as gravity, water, air and other types of resistance. If we change environmental variables, however, it will become possible to conduct simulation based on various laws of physics. Students engaged in this project are also proceeding with research activities very enthusiastically.

Masashi Furukawa, Doctor of Engineering

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