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DARPA looking to build conscious robots modeled after insect brains

We use artificial intelligence (AI) in our day to day to lives perhaps more than we even realize, from Alexa to Siri to the wide array of “smart” technology we have in our homes, cars, phones, and businesses.

The amount of computation and training required for artificial intelligence systems is steadily increasing and modeling AI after the human brain is a significant challenge because of the human brain’s complex and vast neural network.

The Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA), the Pentagon’s research and development department, has a plan to streamline this process and has recently put out a call for submissions to create a conscious AI robot modeled after insect brains.

The goal of the new project is to find a way to build small, easy to train, energy efficient AI robots. Insects are a great starting place because of even though they have limited processing and problem-solving abilities, they still have high levels of functionality within their environments.

“This AIE opportunity invites proposers to submit innovative basic research concepts aimed at understanding highly-integrated sensory and nervous systems in miniature insects and developing prototype computational models that could be mapped onto suitable hardware in order to emulate their impressive function,” DARPA said in a statement.

If DARPA could create an efficient AI insect model, it would be easy to then incorporate the AI into a conscious robot that thinks and acts like an insect.

Not only would an AI robot bug be more efficient and require less computational training, but it could also help unravel the mysteries of how the brain processes information and stores memory.

“Nature has forced on these small insects drastic miniaturization and energy efficiency, some having only a few hundred neurons in a compact form-factor, while maintaining basic functionality,” the DARPA announcement reads. “This research could lead to capability of inference, prediction, generalization and abstraction of problems in systematic or entirely new ways in order to find solutions to compelling problems.”

A $1 million prize will be issued to the winning proposal if they can successfully prove that they can create an insect AI model.

By Kay Vandette, Staff Writer

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