Evolutionary Robotics, Self-reproducing Evolving Robots

October 3, 2013 | 17:40
Evolutionary Robotics, Self-reproducing Evolving Robots
Evolutionary Robotics, Self-reproducing Evolving Robots
A new approach to robot development mimics the cycle of life. Recombining their code, two parent robots create a unique baby-bot embodied in hardware.

Evolutionary robotics is on the rise. Instead of robots being designed by human beings, machines run iterative processes to produce new code for the robot's controller.

A team of international scientists from Germany, The Netherlands, France and the UK are proposing a new framework called The Triangle of Life. Their aim is to bring the development of robots to a point where it truly mimics biological evolution.

Currently, evolutionary robotics mainly focuses on the software. A process of repetition and alteration produces new code for the controller. In biological systems, however, body and brain co-evolve. The scientists propose a similar controller-hardware co-evolution for robots.

As far as the scientists know there is only one project in which co-evolution is put to practice. In this experiment Lego bricks, wheels and sensors form the raw material. A computer runs a simulation to arrive at the best configuration of both the body parts and the controller parameters. The design outputted by the computer is then built to test the robot in a physical environment.

The Legobot, however, does not truly mimic biological evolution because it does not self-reproduce. In the Triangle of Life framework the team proposes, an evolved robot becomes itself the basis for a new organism.

The triangle consists of conception, infancy and maturation. Two or more robots recombine their code and produce a hardware configuration to embody the code in. Then there is a period of infancy in which the new robot learns how to operate properly. When it reaches maturation, it can hook up with another robot and reproduce again. Thus creating a true evolutionary cycle.

The scientists propose different methods to enable the bots to physically procreate. There could be birth clinic: a central processing unit that constructs the new robot based on the code and hardware blueprint the parent robots provide. Another method could be self-sacrifice: the parent robots disassemble themselves to provide the parts for their offspring.

True to the lessons of evolution theory the scientists also want to build in a mechanism that ensures the survival of the fittest: 'the Infancy period serves as an initial assessment of implicit fitness that helps filter out inferior organisms before they start wasting resources by producing offspring.'

 

The paper The Triangle of Life: Evolving Robots in Real-time and Real-space is freely available for download.

Via: Robohub

Image: Banksy
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