Skip to main content
Home Asia Europe U.S. World Business Tech Science Entertainment Sport Travel Weather Specials Video I-Reports
In association with:

'Sobots': Uncorking the robotic genie in a bottle

Adjust font size:
Decrease fontDecrease font
Enlarge fontEnlarge font

(CNN) -- Robots are clever at doing things, but they're rather short on personality. But what if a machine could think or feel for itself?

Though it may sound like science fiction, a renowned South Korean robotics expert believes he has developed the first generation of technology to give robots human-like qualities.

Call it the "Origin of Artificial Species."

"Evolutionary concepts have been used in engineering. So motivated by Charles Darwin, I thought of artificial genomes -- for robots," professor Kim Jong-Hwan told CNN.

The Korean robotics expert is best known for creating the Federation of International Robot Soccer, where droids battle it out on the pitch.

His latest project focuses on the software behind the traditionally crafted robots.

The software robot -- or "sobot" -- is like a genie in a lamp: a robot's DNA.

Today, it takes the form of a cartoon-like dog named Rity, developed at the Robot Intelligence Technology (RIT) Laboratory, at the Korea Advanced Institute of Science and Technology (KAIST).

Programmed with 14 artificial chromosomes in 1800 bytes that control 77 behaviors, when Rity appears on a computer screen it is alive with its own emotions.

Its unique synthetic character is determined by a specific combination of the 14 chromosomes.

Rity responds to gestures and facial expressions. Using sensor information, it will spring to life at the sight of its master and express the anticipated emotion -- lapping up affection and retreating when scolded.

One of the outstanding differences between the "sobot" and conventional "robot" is its ability to transfer itself into desktop computers, PDAs, servers and robotic avatars and adapt and evolve like a genetic organism.

"Because a sobot is basically a software system it can easily travel to other robots and multiply. In the middle of such processes it can evolve through crossover and mutation," Professor Kim told the Korea Times.

Professor Kim believes the number of artificial chromosomes will eventually be augmented, allowing sobots to evolve into more sophisticated creatures in the future.

While suggestions of a new species threatening the human race have been mooted, Professor Kim is not worried.

"If we design the chromosomes safely, the self-producing robot will not post a threat back to us," he told the Korea Times.

CNN's James MacDonald and journalist Bina Brown contributed to this report.

CNN TV How To Get CNN Partner Hotels Contact Us Ad Info About Us Preferences
© 2007 Cable News Network.
A Time Warner Company. All Rights Reserved.
Terms under which this service is provided to you.
Read our privacy guidelines. Contact us. Site Map.
SERVICES » E-mail RSSRSS Feed PodcastsRadio News Icon CNN Mobile CNN Pipeline
Offsite Icon External sites open in new window; not endorsed by
Pipeline Icon Pay service with live and archived video. Learn more