The difficulties associated with designing, building, and controlling robots have led their development to a stasis: Applications are limited mostly to repetitive tasks with predefined behavior. Over the last few years we have been trying to address this challenge through an alternative approach: Rather than trying to control an existing machine or create a general-purpose robot, we propose that both the morphology and the controller should evolve at the same time. This process can lead to the automatic design of special-purpose mechanisms and controllers for specific short-term objectives. Here we provide a brief review of three generations of our recent research, which underlies the robots shown on the cover of this issue: Automatically designed static structures, automatically designed and manufactured dynamic electromechanical systems, and modular robots automatically designed through a generative DNA-like encoding.

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