Scientists Build Bridge Toward 'Thinking' Robots October 1, 1999 WALTHAM, Mass. (Reuters) - It's not exactly the Golden Gate -- just a 6 1/2 foot (2 meter) span made of children's Lego blocks -- but the bridge designed by a computer at Brandeis University could be a step toward the creation of intelligent robots, researchers said Friday. Unlike the relatively common practice of computer-aided-design, in which humans use software to improve the design of structures, researchers at Brandeis programmed a computer to use evolutionary steps to design a bridge, as well as a crane and a table, all made with plastic Lego blocks. "The computer was given the model of the physics of Lego structures ... and it was given a goal," explained Jordan Pollack, a computer-science professor at Brandeis. Using algorithms to conduct a trial-and-error process based on the properties of Lego blocks and the almost infinite possibilities of combining them, the computer spent a day and a half and came up with a cantilevered design for a bridge. When Pollack and his colleagues assembled it, the bridge proved structurally sound. The process essentially adds an evolutionary dimension to computer-aided design, which could ultimately result in inexpensive robots that design themselves to address problems, Pollack said. Robots as popularly construed are really just puppets, Pollack said: "We're trying to get to the situation where, as in nature, there never is a body without a corresponding brain." The work was funded in part by the U.S. Office of Naval Research and the National Science Foundation.