Creating artificial life forms through evolutionary robotics faces a “chicken and egg” problem: Learning to control a complex body is dominated by problems specific to its sensors and effectors, while building a body that is controllable assumes the pre-existence of a brain.
The idea of coevolution of bodies and brains is becoming popular, but little work has been done in evolution of physical structure because of the lack of a general framework for doing it. Evolution of creatures in simulation has usually resulted in virtual entities that are not buildable, while embodied evolution in actual robotics is constrained by the slow pace of real time.
The work we present takes a step in addressing the problem of body evolution by applying evolutionary techniques to the design of structures assembled out of elementary components that stick together. Evolution takes place in a simulator that computes forces and stresses and predicts stability of three-dimensional brick structures. The final printout of our program is a schematic assembly, which is then built physically. We demonstrate the functionality of this approach to robot body building with many evolved artifacts.