Dr. Josh Bongard
, a graduate of Cornell University, and now an assistant professor at University of Vermont, has created a robot that automatically determines and compensates for any damage done to its four legs. The research, which recently appeared in Science Magazine (abstract here
) is especially applicable to robots that will be sent on long missions in space or to other planets.
A four-legged machine uses actuation-sensation relationships to indirectly infer its own structure, and it then uses this self-model to generate forward locomotion. When a leg part is removed, it adapts the self-models, leading to the generation of alternative gaits.
To demonstrate this ability, one of the robots legs is removed, and the robot then leans how to walk again with only three legs. The research was done for NASA and the Department of Energy.Update
: Here is a better article describing the robot
. CNET has several good pictures of the robot