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PDF 1.2 MB
Pages 222-229
First published 30 July 2014

Evolved Electrophysiological Soft Robots

Nicholas Cheney, Jeff Clune, and Hod Lipson

Abstract (Excerpt)

The embodied cognition paradigm emphasizes that both bodies and brains combine to produce complex behaviors, in contrast to the traditional view that the only seat of intelligence is the brain. Despite recent excitement about embodied cognition, brains and bodies remain thought of, and implemented as, two separate entities that merely interface with one another to carry out their respective roles. Previous research co-evolving bodies and brains has simulated the physics of bodies that collect sensory information and pass that information on to disembodied neural networks, which then processes that information and return motor commands. Biological animals, in contrast, produce behavior through physically embedded control structures and a complex and continuous interplay between neural and mechanical forces. In addition to the electrical pulses flowing through the physical wiring of the nervous system, the heart elegantly combines control with actuation, as the physical properties of the tissue itself (or defects therein) determine the actuation of the organ. Inspired by these phenomena from cardiac electrophysiology (the study of the electrical properties of heart tissue), we introduce electrophysiological robots, whose behavior is dictated by electrical signals flowing though the tissue cells of soft robots. Here we describe these robots and how they are evolved. Videos and images of these robots reveal lifelike behaviors despite the added challenge of having physically embedded control structures. We also provide an initial experimental investigation into the impact of different implementation decisions, such as alternatives for sensing, actuation, and locations of central pattern generators. Overall, this paper provides a first step towards removing the chasm between bodies and brains to encourage further research into physically realistic embodied cognition.