The University of Sussex

Evolving electronic robot controllers that exploit hardware resources

Adrian Thompson

Artificial evolution can operate upon reconfigurable electronic circuits to produce efficient and powerful control systems for autonomous mobile robots. Evolving physical hardware instead of control systems simulated in software results in more than just a raw speed increase: it is possible to exploit the physical properties of the implementation (such as the semiconductor physics of integrated circuits) to obtain control circuits of unprecedented power. The space of these evolvable circuits is far larger than the space of solutions in which a human designer works, because to make design tractable, a more abstract view than that of detailed physics must be adopted. To allow circuits to be designed at this abstract level, constraints are applied to the design that limit how the natural dynamical behaviour of the components is reflected in the overall behaviour of the system. This paper reasons that these constraints can be removed when using artificial evolution, releasing huge potential even from small circuits. Experimental evidence is given for this argument, including the first reported evolution of a real hardware control system for a real robot.

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