It’s actually just an interesting spin on something that’s likely been happening for quite some time, at least as I understand the process as it’s being described in the abstract Steven references:
The basis of science is the hypothetico-deductive method and the recording of experiments in sufficient detail to enable reproducibility. We report the development of Robot Scientist “Adam,” which advances the automation of both. Adam has autonomously generated functional genomics hypotheses about the yeast Saccharomycescerevisiae and experimentally tested these hypotheses by using laboratory automation. We have confirmed Adam’s conclusions through manual experiments. To describe Adam’s research, we have developed an ontology and logical language. The resulting formalization involves over 10,000 different research units in a nested treelike structure, 10 levels deep, that relates the 6.6 million biomass measurements to their logical description. This formalization describes how a machine contributed to scientific knowledge.
When I lived in Florida, one of the buildings the financial services company I served as CTO at also housed a laboratory funded specifically to improve testing for the disease Lupis. Just as an interesting side project, I spent a lot of time in the lab learning about the testing equipment and helped the laboratory manager better design data acquisition and testing units so that the bulk of the research was completely automated.
The difference here is that in this case, the robot in question seems to be doing a bit of cognitive work to determine the relative success or failure of the experiments – that and it’s got a better PR department than my old robot did.