|The new system uses a computer simulation to filter out all the possible solutions that will not work well. It then collects the ones that are both effective and different from each other, so that the robot does not waste time testing out similar strategies.
Next, the robot tries out what the simulation predicts will be the best solution. If that fails, it tries out something entirely different. It carries on doing this until it finds a strategy that works.
The research points the way to robots that are more robust, adaptable and cheaper to maintain than today's machines, according to senior author Jean-Baptiste Mouret, from Pierre and Marie Curie University in Paris.
Is this spider robot that the first of a new generation of adaptable machines?
"If you have robots in your home they would probably be expensive and you would not want them to stop working if a small part breaks," he told BBC News.
"Robots are used in factories because they are a controlled environment and nothing unexpected can happen to them. We would like to put these robots outside of factories to help in the outside world, where anything can happen."
Alongside recent advances in artificial intelligence, such as the self-learning system developed by Google's DeepMind Technologies, this development could see the emergence of new uses for robots.
"The things (DeepMind) is working on are amazing," says Dr Clune. "(Together) we will bring closer a future where robots are helping humans.
Does the march of the machines start now? Recent advances in artificial intelligence could soon lead them out of the factory floor and into the home.
"We should be sending robots into Fukushima instead of asking human volunteers to take lethal doses of radiation. Robots should be putting out forest fires so we don't have to risk human lives and they should be used to help us in our homes," he said.
Among the ideas for household robots are machines for cleaning, cooking, or loading and unloading dishwashers.
Most of the development of the system was done by Antoine Cully, a PhD student working with Dr Mouret. He says one of his principal motivations was to help those who are infirm.
"I hope we can have robots that are assistants for the elderly," he said.
Dr Clune, though, believes this technology could have applications at the other end of the age spectrum.
He has very recently become a father, whose newborn child has been keeping him awake into the early hours of the night. He confesses that he has spent the extra sleepless hours pondering "long and hard" whether he could use the new system to create a robot that can soothe a crying baby.
"Necessity is the mother of invention, so maybe that will be my next invention," he joked.
But I was left with the impression that his comments were not entirely in jest.