Abstract: One can distinguish between traditional and evolutionary robotics (ER) by the way in
which each community generates controllers: traditional roboticists hand-design or
use learning methods to create control policies, while evolutionary roboticists employ
evolutionary algorithms. What further distinguishes these two approaches is that
evolutionary algorithms may also be used to optimize robot morphology as well as
the control policy. This chapter traces the history of this practice and outlines how
we as a community are transitioning from questions regarding how to evolve morphology
to why one should do so. Here I outline seven such reasons: selecting or evolving
an appropriate morphology can (1) simplify control, (2) make seemingly difficult tasks
easier, (3) increase evolvability, (4) provide new behaviors, (5) facilitate the extraction
of information from the environment, (6) generate new research questions, and
(7) improve scalability.
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Bongard's work focuses on understanding the general nature of cognition, regardless of whether it is found in humans, animals or robots. This unique approach focuses on the role that morphology and evolution plays in cognition. Addressing these questions has taken him into the fields of biology, psychology, engineering and computer science.
Danforth is an applied mathematician interested in modeling a variety of physical, biological, and social phenomenon. He has applied principles of chaos theory to improve weather forecasts as a member of the Mathematics and Climate Research Network, and developed a real-time remote sensor of global happiness using messages from Twitter: the Hedonometer. Danforth co-runs the Computational Story Lab with Peter Dodds, and helps run UVM's reading group on complexity.
Laurent studies the interaction of structure and dynamics. His research involves network theory, statistical physics and nonlinear dynamics along with their applications in epidemiology, ecology, biology, and sociology. Recent projects include comparing complex networks of different nature, the coevolution of human behavior and infectious diseases, understanding the role of forest shape in determining stability of tropical forests, as well as the impact of echo chambers in political discussions.
Hines' work broadly focuses on finding ways to make electric energy more reliable, more affordable, with less environmental impact. Particular topics of interest include understanding the mechanisms by which small problems in the power grid become large blackouts, identifying and mitigating the stresses caused by large amounts of electric vehicle charging, and quantifying the impact of high penetrations of wind/solar on electricity systems.
Bagrow's interests include: Complex Networks (community detection, social modeling and human dynamics, statistical phenomena, graph similarity and isomorphism), Statistical Physics (non-equilibrium methods, phase transitions, percolation, interacting particle systems, spin glasses), and Optimization(glassy techniques such as simulated/quantum annealing, (non-gradient) minimization of noisy objective functions).