Environmental Adaptation of Robot Morphology and Control through Real-world Evolution

Environmental Adaptation of Robot Morphology and Control through Real-world Evolution

Abstract

Robots operating in the real world will experience a range of different environments and tasks. It is essential for the robot to have the ability to adapt to its surroundings to work efficiently in changing conditions. Evolutionary robotics aims to solve this by optimizing both the control and body (morphology) of a robot, allowing adaptation to internal, as well as external factors. Most work in this field has been done in physics simulators, which are relatively simple and not able to replicate the richness of interactions found in the real world. Solutions that rely on the complex interplay between control, body, and environment are therefore rarely found. In this paper, we rely solely on real-world evaluations and apply evolutionary search to yield combinations of morphology and control for our mechanically self-reconfiguring quadruped robot. We evolve solutions on two very different physical surfaces and analyze the results in terms of both control and morphology. We then transition to two previously unseen surfaces to demonstrate the generality of our method. We find that the evolutionary search adapts both control and body to the different physical environments, yielding significantly different morphology-controller configurations. Moreover, we observe that the solutions found by our method work well on previously unseen terrains.

Publication
Evolutionary Computation Journal, MIT press.