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Animats are artificial animals, a contraction of animal-materials. The term includes physical robots and virtual simulations. Animat research, a subset of Artificial Life studies, has become rather popular since Rodney Brooks' seminal paper "Intelligence without representation". The word was coined by S.W. Wilson in 1985, in "Knowledge growth in an artificial animal", published in the first Proceedings of an International Conference on Genetic Algorithms and Their Applications.
An example using the Animat model as proposed by Wilson is discussed at some length in chapter 9 of Stan Franklin's book, Artificial Minds. In this implementation, the animat is capable of independent learning about its environment through application and evolution of pattern-matching rules called "taxons".
In 2001 Thomas DeMarse performed studies on 'Neurally controlled animat'. Every two years, the Society of Adaptive Behaviour meets and produces a proceedings on this topic. They also have a journal, Adaptive Behavior.
Alan H Goldstein has proposed that, because nanobiotechnology is in the process of creating real animal-materials, speculative use of this term should be discouraged and its application become purely phenomenological. Based on the Animat Test (contained in the reference "I, Nanobot.") any nonbiological material or entity that exhibits the minimum set of behaviors that define a life form is, de facto, an Animat. Goldstein's basic premise is that in the age of nanobiotechnology it is necessary to follow the chemistry and molecular engineering rather than watching for the emergence of some pre-conceived minimum level of 'intelligence' such as an artificial neural network capable of adaptive phenomena. Goldstein has cautioned that there is a serious disconnect between the fields of nanobiotechnology and A-life based on profound differences in scientific training, experimental systems, and the different sets of terminology (jargon) these two fields have produced. Nanobiotechnologists (really molecular engineers who work with both biological and nonbiological molecules) are generally not concerned with complex systems per se; even when they are building molecular interconnects between such systems, e.g. neuroelectronic splices. A-Life researchers mainly take a systems-level approach. The enormous transformative power of novel molecular engineering has the potential to create Animats, true nonbiological life forms, whose relatively simple behavior would not fit into most standard A-Life paradigms. As a result, Goldstein argues, the first Animats may come into being completely unrecognized by either scientific community.
- Thomas DeMarse work: http://www.bme.ufl.edu/documents/the_neurally_10.pdf
- Stanley P. Franklin. "Artificial Life", in Artificial Minds. The MIT Press, Cambridge, MA, 1995: 185-207.
- Alan H. Goldstein. "I, Nanobot." Salon.com, March 9 2006. http://www.salon.com/tech/feature/2006/03/09/nanobiobot/index.html
- S. W. Wilson, Knowledge growth in an artificial animal. In Proceedings of an International Conference on Genetic Algorithms and Their Applications (pp. 16-23), Grefenstette, J.J., ed., Hillsdale, NJ: Lawrence Erlbaum Assoc. (1985). http://www.eskimo.com/~wilson/ps/KGAA.pdf
- S. W. Wilson. The animat path to AI. In J.-A. Meyer and S. Wilson, editors, From Animals to Animats, pages 15–21. MIT Press, Cambridge, MA, 1991. http://www.eskimo.com/~wilson/ps/animat.pdf
- The AnimatLab of Laboratoire d'Informatique de Paris 6 (Lip6), headed by Jean-Arcady Meyer
- International Society for Adaptive Behavior