Spring 2017, Vol. 23, No. 2, Pages 142-168
Evolutionary robotics is challenged with some key problems that must be solved, or at least mitigated extensively, before it can fulfill some of its promises to deliver highly autonomous and adaptive robots. The reality gap and the ability to transfer phenotypes from simulation to reality constitute one such problem. Another lies in the embodiment of the evolutionary processes, which links to the first, but focuses on how evolution can act on real agents and occur independently from simulation, that is, going from being, as Eiben, Kernbach, & Haasdijk [2012, p. 261] put it, “the evolution of things, rather than just the evolution of digital objects.…” The work presented here investigates how fully autonomous evolution of robot controllers can be realized in hardware, using an industrial robot and a marker-based computer vision system. In particular, this article presents an approach to automate the reconfiguration of the test environment and shows that it is possible, for the first time, to incrementally evolve a neural robot controller for different obstacle avoidance tasks with no human intervention. Importantly, the system offers a high level of robustness and precision that could potentially open up the range of problems amenable to embodied evolution.