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Morphological Modularity Can Enable the Evolution of Robot Behavior to Scale Linearly with the Number of Environmental Features

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Journal Article - Open Access

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University of Vermont Burlington United States

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In evolutionary robotics, populations of robots are typically trained in simulation before one or more of them are instantiated as physical robots. However, in order to evolve robust behavior, each robot must be evaluated in multiple environments. If an environment is characterized by f free parameters, each of which can take one of np features, each robot must be evaluated in all nfp environments to ensure robustness. Here, we show that if the robots are constrained to have modular morphologies and controllers, they only need to be evaluated in np environments to reach the same level of robustness. This becomes possible because the robots evolve such that each module of the morphology allows the controller to independently recognize a familiar percept in the environment, and each percept corresponds to one of the environmental free parameters. When exposed to anew environment, the robot perceives it as a novel combination of familiar percepts which it can solve without requiring further training. A non-modular morphology and controller however perceives the same environment as a completely novel environment, requiring further training. This acceleration in evolvability the rate of the evolution of adaptive and robust behavior suggests that evolutionary robotics may become a scalable approach for automatically creating complex autonomous machines, if the evolution of neural and morphological modularity is taken into account.

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  • Bionics
  • Cybernetics

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