ARTIFICIAL INTELLIGENCE CHALLENGES HUMAN INNOVATION
Man and machine are neck and neck in the first rounds of www.sodarace.net, an online competition where virtual human-created robots race against those designed by artificial intelligence.
With an international audience of over 150,000 online spectators, humans and machine intelligence compete to create both racers and racetracks with which to challenge each other, as human Sodarace players take on the might of world-wide artificial intelligence research. Sodarace is also proving a
highly accessible teaching resource for schools and colleges world-wide.
Machine learning initially proved a challenge for human creativity; groups in the UK and Austria have used computers to produce artificial intelligence designed robots that have beaten those created by humans.
The two teams have taken different approaches; the UK team of Computer Science students at Queen Mary, University of London, have taken a basic wheel design and used artificial intelligence programs to breed the best racer to compete over a hilly sprint course. The team in Austria has given the artificial intelligence a free hand, and used programmes that are given the task of finding the best solution to the problem of moving quickly over flat ground; the results are strange computer generated stick-insect type creatures that perambulate with weird and wonderful lifelike qualities.
Despite this initial success by machines, humans have made an early comeback, with a racer developed in Canada using a trial and error method.
Dr Peter McOwan, a researcher in artificial intelligence at the Department of Computer Science, Queen Mary, University of London said:
"Human creativity will be tough to beat and this will be a fascinating global experiment. Machines designing machines has been the theme of many popular science fiction movies, but in Sodarace that has become a reality."
Ed Burton, Director of Research at Soda Creative Ltd, the designer of the Sodarace software, added:
"Evolved robots are now racing against the human designs but it is surprising to see the competition turning into a collaboration. Computer programmers are learning model-making tips from children who are experts in designing Sodaracers. In turn, children are learning that AI isn't magic and that, at least for now, humans are still where the ideas emerge."
• Further information, including videos of races, is available online at http://sodarace.net/news/.
• To download the Sodarace software go to http://sodarace.net/race. You will need to install the latest version of Java from Sun including Webstart; follow the link on the Sodarace page to do this.
For more details please contact:
+44 (0)20 8255 5225
Dr Peter McOwan
Department of Computer Sciences
Queen Mary, University of London
020 7882 5224
Queen Mary, University of London
020 7882 5378
Notes to Editors
Sodarace was developed by Soda Creative Ltd and Queen Mary's Department of Computer Science and was funded by the Public Awareness of Science programme of the UK Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC).
Sodarace builds on the hugely successful cult interactive website 'sodaplay', which attracted over 100,000 visitors per month at www.sodaplay.com and was awarded a BAFTA for Interactive Arts in 2001.
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