The ARE Robot Fabricator: How to (Re)produce Robots that Can Evolve in the Real World

Supplementary material

Authors

Matthew F. Hale, Edgar Buchanan, Alan F. Winfield, Jon Timmis, Emma Hart, Agoston E. Eiben, Mike Angus, Frank Veenstra, Wei Li, Robert Wolley, Matteo De Carlo and Andy M. Tyrrell

Abstract

The long term vision of the the Autonomous Robot Evolution (ARE) project is to create an ecosystem of both virtual and physical robots with evolving brains and bodies. One of the major challenges for such a vision is the need to construct many unique individuals without prior knowledge of what designs evolution will produce. To this end, an autonomous robot fabrication system for evolutionary robotics, the Robot Fabricator, is introduced in this paper. Evolutionary algorithms can create robot designs without direct human interaction; the Robot Fabricator will extend this to create physical copies of these designs (phenotypes) without direct human interaction. The Robot Fabricator will receive genomes and produce populations of physical individuals that can then be evaluated, allowing this to form part of the evolutionary loop, so robotic evolution is not confined to simulation hense minimising the reality gap. In order to allow the production of robot bodies with the widest variety of shapes and functional parts, individuals will be produced through 3D printing, with prefabricated actuators and sensors autonomously attached in the positions determined by evolution. This paper presents details of the proposed physical system, including a proof-of-concept demonstrator, and discusses the importance of considering the physical manufacture for evolutionary robotics.

Video

https://youtu.be/ASEWVsSdKzE

Evolutionary algorithms can create robot designs without direct human interaction; the Robot Fabricator will extend this to create physical copies of these designs (phenotypes) without direct human interaction. The Robot Fabricator will receive genomes and produce populations of physical individuals that can then be tested, allowing this to form part of the evolutionary loop, so robotic evolution is not confined to simulation. In order to allow the production of robot bodies with the widest variety of shapes and functional parts, individuals will be produced through 3D printing, with prefabricated actuators and sensors autonomously attached in the positions determined by evolution. The manufacture sequence is described as follows:

  1. The skeleton is manufactured by the 3D printer.
  2. The robotic arm transfers the skeleton to the assembly area. This is currently done manually. In the final design this step will be done by the robot arm.
  3. The organs are attached to the appropriate locations by the robotic arm.
  4. The robotic arm connects the organs together by cables to provide power and communications.
  5. Any remaining components that cannot be attached by the robot arm, such as wheels, are attached manually. In the final design this step will be eliminated.
  6. The robot is complete and ready to be transferred to the training facility.
Paper

https://doi.org/10.1162/isal_a_00147