New robot is "on the path to machine self-awareness," says creator

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Researchers at Columbia University say they've built a robot arm that can construct a self-image from scratch -- a capability they frame, provocatively, as a step toward machines that are truly self-aware. "This is perhaps what a newborn child does in its crib, as it learns what it is," said Hod Lipson, a professor of mechanical engineering who worked on the robot, in a press release. "We conjecture that this advantage may have also been the evolutionary origin of self-awareness in humans. While our robot's ability to imagine itself is still crude compared to humans, we believe that this ability is on the path to machine self-awareness." The robot arm, described in a new paper in the journal Science Robotics, learns how to operate by experimenting -- with no programming about physics, geometry or its own construction.

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