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Evolutionary design of soft-bodied animats with decentralized control

Joachimczak, M and Kowaliw, T and Doursat, R and Wróbel, B (2013) Evolutionary design of soft-bodied animats with decentralized control. Artificial Life and Robotics, 18 (3). pp. 152-160. ISSN 1433-5298

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Abstract

We show how a biologically inspired model of multicellular development combined with a simulated evolutionary process can be used to design the morphologies and controllers of soft-bodied virtual animats. An animat’s morphology is the result of a developmental process that starts from a single cell and goes through many cell divisions, during which cells interact via simple physical rules. Every cell contains the same genome, which encodes a gene regulatory network (GRN) controlling its behavior. After the developmental stage, locomotion emerges from the coordinated activity of the GRNs across the virtual robot body. Since cells act autonomously, the behavior of the animat is generated in a truly decentralized fashion. The movement of the animat is produced by the contraction and expansion of parts of the body, caused by the cells, and is simulated using a physics engine. Our system makes possible the evolution and development of animats that can run, swim, and actively navigate toward a target in a virtual environment.

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