Robot orangutan to simulate human learning

Robot primate will have electronic 'brain'

Artificial intelligence expert Steve Grand has developed a robotic orangutan which he hopes will become the first machine capable of human-like thought and learning.

Lucy, the robotic primate, will have an electronic "brain" of sorts, created by software on a connected laptop. The software is designed to simulate the activity of neurons and develop its own programs by interacting with Lucy's body and surroundings.

Grand hopes that developing a robot with basic learning capabilities may lead to higher developments and eventually provide some insight into the way that the human brain works. "I am aiming for subconsciousness," he says. "This may conceivably lead to consciousness. What I'm trying to create is a network with imagination. I have to work out what kind of neural substrate that would take."

The Somerset-based scientist says he hopes to have Lucy at a stage similar to that of a baby orangutan within 12 months and is also planning a book about the robot's development.

Grand is famed for creating the computer game Creatures, which features characters called Norns capable of limited independence.

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