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ISSN
1064-5462
E-ISSN
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2014 Impact factor:
1.39

Artificial Life

Summer 2014, Vol. 20, No. 3, Pages 361-383
(doi: 10.1162/ARTL_a_00136)
@ 2014 Massachusetts Institute of Technology
Cracking the Egg: Virtual Embryogenesis of Real Robots
Article PDF (1.6 MB)
Abstract

All multicellular living beings are created from a single cell. A developmental process, called embryogenesis, takes this first fertilized cell down a complex path of reproduction, migration, and specialization into a complex organism adapted to its environment. In most cases, the first steps of the embryogenesis take place in a protected environment such as in an egg or in utero. Starting from this observation, we propose a new approach to the generation of real robots, strongly inspired by living systems. Our robots are composed of tens of specialized cells, grown from a single cell using a bio-inspired virtual developmental process. Virtual cells, controlled by gene regulatory networks, divide, migrate, and specialize to produce the robot's body plan (morphology), and then the robot is manually built from this plan. Because the robot is as easy to assemble as Lego, the building process could be easily automated.