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‘Robot scientist’ makes a discovery on its own

By / April 8, 2009

Prof. Ross King poses in front of ADAM, a robot scientist, that is perhaps the first machine to make a scientific discovery.

Courtesy of Aberystwyth University


Researchers at Aberystwyth University in Wales say they have created the first machine that can independently hypothesize, test, and recognize new scientific discoveries.

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ADAM, the “scientist,” looks more like a cluttered laboratory than a cyborg – it doesn’t have any shoulders to support a lab coat. But the prototype pairs precise robotic hardware with high-powered artificial intelligence.

To test their design, Prof. Ross King and his team asked ADAM to research the genome of baker’s yeast. They taught the machine biology and let it plan its own experiments. Without further human intervention, ADAM cracked a simple but undiscovered aspect of enzymes in the yeast. Mr. King’s team later backed up the finding with independent research.

“Ultimately, we hope to have teams of human and robot scientists working together in laboratories,” King says in the announcement. “Because biological organisms are so complex, it is important that the details of biological experiments are recorded in great detail. This is difficult and irksome for human scientists, but easy for robot scientists.”

Lessons learned from ADAM will go into developing its improved sibling, EVE. King hopes this next generation  of robot scientist will help create new medicines.

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