University of  Sussex MEDIA RELEASE

The Information Office, University of Sussex, Falmer, Brighton, BN1 9RH.

Monday 30 March l998

MAGGIE, THE PURPLE OCTOPOD, IN MAJOR NATIONAL EXHIBITION

Maggie, a bright purple octopod, and one of the first artificially evolved robots in a physical environment, will go on show in a major national exhibition next month. Maggie, developed by the Centre for Computational Neuroscience and Robotics (CCNR) at the University of Sussex, is to be part of Powerhouse: UK, a £1 million showcase of innovative British design, technology and creativity taking place in London between 4-19 April. Commissioned by the Department of Trade and Industry, Powerhouse:UK will be the centrepiece for state visits by the Queen and the Prince of Wales and an official visit by Tony Blair.

Powerhouse:UK will explore four areas of creativity, one of which is 'Creativity in Learning'. Within this context, The Sussex Centre will be exhibiting alongside four other leaders in the exploration and application of new technologies, and will centre around research on Artificial Evolution. The Centre is an innovative collaboration between biologists and computer scientists at the University of Sussex and is a world leader in the new science of Artificial Life.

Maggie combines two different areas of development. One is autonomous robotics - the robot used on the recent trip to Mars was semi-autonomous - future version are likely to use Maggie's technology. The other is artificial evolution. Inman Harvey of the CCNR explains how artificial evolution works. "You might start with l00 different designs. You score them - most will get 0, but some will be better The fitter ones get to be parents, producing offspring which have some artifical DNA from one parent and some from the other, with some random mutations. Then you evaluate them again. And again - only the fittest survive. Once you have set up the mechanism, you leave the artificial evolution to work for itself. Maggie is a 3,500th generation design. We don't actually know how she works, only that she does."

Other CCNR exhibits, which will be housed in a 'greenhouse', will include an anthill. At the CCNR robots are used to test ideas on how insects use vision to forage and return to the nest with the goal of using insects for inspiration in building better robots. The Centre has also recently used artificial evolution to directly design the layout of a reconfigurable silicone chip. There is potential for telecommunications companies to use this for speech recognition chips.

For further information on the University of Sussex exhibits contact Sue Yates, Information Officer, on 01273 678384 email S.M.Yates@sussex. ac.uk. For information on the Powerhouse:UK event contact Ylva French Communications on 0171 233 6789


This file produced by USIS - 27th March 1998