This is a pretty interesting or scary development in robotics, depending on how you look at it. Researchers at the Georgia Institute of Technology are developing robots which may soon not only be able to detect and move around their environments, but may also pack the articifical intelligence to be able to make use of items in the envinroment as tools to carry out their mission/purposes:
“Our goal is to develop a robot that behaves like MacGyver, the television character from the 1980s who solved complex problems and escaped dangerous situations by using everyday objects and materials he found at hand,” said Stilman, an assistant professor in the School of Interactive Computing at Georgia Tech. “We want to understand the basic cognitive processes that allow humans to take advantage of arbitrary objects in their environments as tools. We will achieve this by designing algorithms for robots that make tasks that are impossible for a robot alone possible for a robot with tools.”
Next up – autonomous quadcopter robots which use the environment to hunt you down … Just kidding!