This article provides an overview of evolutionary robotics research where evolution takes place in a population of robots in a continuous manner. Ficici et al. (1999) coined the phrase embodied evolution for evolutionary processes that are distributed over the robots in the population to allow them to adapt autonomously and continuously. As robotics technology becomes simultaneously more capable and economically viable, individual robots operated at large expense by teams of experts are increasingly supplemented by collectives of robots used cooperatively under minimal human supervision (Bellingham and Rajan, 2007), and embodied evolution can play a crucial role in enabling autonomous online adaptivity in such robot collectives.
Resonance, a powerful and pervasive phenomenon, appears to play a major role in human interactions. This article investigates the relationship between the physical mechanism of resonance and the human experience of resonance, and considers possibilities for enhancing the experience of resonance within human–robot interactions. We first introduce resonance as a widespread cultural and scientific metaphor. Then, we review the nature of “sympathetic resonance” as a physical mechanism. Following this introduction, the remainder of the article is organized in two parts. In part one, we review the role of resonance (including synchronization and rhythmic entrainment) in human cognition and social interactions. Then, in part two, we review resonance-related phenomena in robotics and artificial intelligence (AI). These two reviews serve as ground for the introduction of a design strategy and combinatorial design space for shaping resonant interactions with robots and AI. We conclude by posing hypotheses and research questions for future empirical studies and discuss a range of ethical and aesthetic issues associated with resonance in human–robot interactions.
The challenge of robotic reproduction -- making of new robots by recombining two existing ones -- has been recently cracked and physically evolving robot systems have come within reach. Here we address the next big hurdle: producing an adequate brain for a newborn robot. In particular, we address the task of targeted locomotion which is arguably a fundamental skill in any practical implementation. We introduce a controller architecture and a generic learning method to allow a modular robot with an arbitrary shape to learn to walk towards a target and follow this target if it moves. Our approach is validated on three robots, a spider, a gecko, and their offspring, in three real-world scenarios.
Simultaneously evolving morphologies (bodies) and controllers (brains) of robots can cause a mismatch between the inherited body and brain in the offspring. To mitigate this problem, the addition of an infant learning period by the so-called Triangle of Life framework has been proposed relatively long ago. However, an empirical assessment is still lacking to-date. In this paper we investigate the effects of such a learning mechanism from different perspectives. Using extensive simulations we show that learning can greatly increase task performance and reduce the number of generations required to reach a certain fitness level compared to the purely evolutionary approach. Furthermore, although learning only directly affects the controllers, we demonstrate that the evolved morphologies will be also different. This provides a quantitative demonstration that changes in the brain can induce changes in the body. Finally, we examine the concept of morphological intelligence quantified by the ability of a given body to learn. We observe that the learning delta, the performance difference between the inherited and the learned brain, is growing throughout the evolutionary process. This shows that evolution is producing robots with an increasing plasticity, that is, consecutive generations are becoming better and better learners which in turn makes them better and better at the given task. All in all, our results demonstrate that the Triangle of Life is not only a concept of theoretical interest, but a system architecture with practical benefits.
When controllers (brains) and morphologies (bodies) of robots simultaneously evolve, this can lead to a problem, namely the brain & body mismatch problem. In this research, we propose a solution of lifetime learning. We set up a system where modular robots can create offspring that inherit the bodies of parents by recombination and mutation. With regards to the brains of the offspring, we use two methods to create them. The first one entails solely evolution which means the brain of a robot child is inherited from its parents. The second approach is evolution plus learning which means the brain of a child is inherited as well, but additionally is developed by a learning algorithm - RevDEknn. We compare these two methods by running experiments in a simulator called Revolve and use efficiency, efficacy, and the morphology intelligence of the robots for the comparison. The experiments show that the evolution plus learning method does not only lead to a higher fitness level, but also to more morphologically evolving robots. This constitutes a quantitative demonstration that changes in the brain can induce changes in the body, leading to the concept of morphological intelligence, which is quantified by the learning delta, meaning the ability of a morphology to facilitate learning.