Material properties affect evolution’s ability to exploit morphological computation in growing soft-bodied creatures
Proceedings of the 15th International Conference on the Synthesis and Simulation of Living Systems (ALife 2016), , , 2016
Abstract: The concept of morphological computation holds that the body of an agent can, under certain circumstances, exploit the interaction with the environment to achieve useful behavior, potentially reducing the computational burden of the brain/controller. The conditions under which such phenomenon arises are, however, unclear. We hypothesize that morphological computation will be facilitated by body plans with appropriate geometric, material, and growth properties, while it will be hindered by other body plans in which one or more of these three properties is not well suited to the task. We test this by evolving the geometries and growth processes of soft robots, with either manually-set softer or stiffer material properties. Results support our hypothesis: we find that for the task investigated, evolved softer robots achieve better performances with simpler growth processes than …
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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).