The University of Sussex

Issues in evolutionary robotics

I. Harvey, P. Husbands, D. Cliff

In this paper we propose and justify a methodology for the development of the control systems, or `cognitive architectures', of autonomous mobile robots. We argue that the design by hand of such control systems becomes prohibitively difficult as complexity increases. We discuss an alternative approach, involving artificial evolution, where the basic building blocks for cognitive architectures are adaptive noise-tolerant dynamical neural networks, rather than programs. These networks may be recurrent, and should operate in real time. Evolution should be incremental, using an extended and modified version of genetic algorithms. We finally propose that, sooner rather than later, visual processing will be required in order for robots to engage in non-trivial navigation behaviours. Time constraints suggest that initial architecture evaluations should be largely done in simulation. The pitfalls of simulations compared with reality are discussed, together with the importance of incorporating noise. To support our claims and proposals, we present results from some preliminary experiments where robots which roam office-like environments are evolved.

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