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Artificial Life

Spring 2017, Vol. 23, No. 2, Pages 169-185
(doi: 10.1162/ARTL_a_00228)
© 2017 Massachusetts Institute of Technology
Evolutionary Developmental Robotics: Improving Morphology and Control of Physical Robots
Article PDF (1.11 MB)

Evolutionary algorithms have previously been applied to the design of morphology and control of robots. The design space for such tasks can be very complex, which can prevent evolution from efficiently discovering fit solutions. In this article we introduce an evolutionary-developmental (evo-devo) experiment with real-world robots. It allows robots to grow their leg size to simulate ontogenetic morphological changes, and this is the first time that such an experiment has been performed in the physical world. To test diverse robot morphologies, robot legs of variable shapes were generated during the evolutionary process and autonomously built using additive fabrication. We present two cases with evo-devo experiments and one with evolution, and we hypothesize that the addition of a developmental stage can be used within robotics to improve performance. Moreover, our results show that a nonlinear system-environment interaction exists, which explains the nontrivial locomotion patterns observed. In the future, robots will be present in our daily lives, and this work introduces for the first time physical robots that evolve and grow while interacting with the environment.