Dr. Inman Harvey
"Artificial Evolution: A Continuing SAGA"

I will start with a basic tutorial on Artificial Evolution, and show the simplest possible way of implementing this with the Microbial Genetic Algorithm. I will then discuss some shortcomings in many of the basic assumptions of the orthdox Genetic Algorithm (GA) community, and give a rather different perspective. The basic principles of SAGA (Species Adaptation GAs) will be outlined, and the concept of Neutral Networks, pathways of level fitness through a fitness landscape will be introduced. A practical example will demonstrate the relevance of this.

Prof. Robert Full
"Using Biological Inspiration to Build Artificial Life that Locomotes"

Nature's processes and designs can assist us in the construction of life-like robots.

1. Nature's general principles can provide biological inspiration for robotic designs. The blind copying of nature is likely to fail, since evolution works on the "just good enough" principle. Organisms not only bring to us amazingly adaptive designs, but also carry with them the baggage of their history. Nature co-opts the parts it has for new functions. Adult parts often serve multiple functions and have been constrained by development. Nature provides useful hints of what is possible and design ideas that may have escaped our consideration. These biological principles should be explored in our best engineering efforts.

2. The discovery of general biological principles requires a collapse of dimensions in complex systems. Behavior results from complex, high dimensional, nonlinear, dynamically coupled interactions of an organism with its environment. Animals show kinematic, actuator and neuronal redundancy when a single behavior such as locomotion is examined. Reducing redundancies by seeking synergies yields simple, general principles. For instance, animals that differ in leg number, body form and skeletal type show the same motions - legged animals bounce like people on pogo sticks. Force patterns produced by the six-legged insects are the same as those produced by trotting eight-legged crabs, four-legged dogs and running humans.

3. Nature will become an increasingly more useful teacher as human technology takes on more of the characteristics of nature. Even if we had all the general biological principles, we don't have the technology to use them effectively. Information handling has changed dramatically, but until recently the final effectors (metal beams and electric motors) have not. Traditionally, human technologies have been large, flat, right-angled, stiff, and rotating, with few actuators and sensors, whereas nature is small, curved, compliant using appendages with multiple actuators and sensors. Human technology is changing with the greater use of nonmetallic, more flexible materials and increased miniaturization. Revolutionary new technologies in materials and manufacturing promises to lead to more life-like, mobile robots in the future when inspired by nature.

Dr. Hiroaki Kitano
"Integrated Perception and Behaviors in Humanoid"

This talk presents perception and behavioral control in a humanoid. One of the essential aspects in intelligent systems research is how to attain robustness in perception and behaviors. Much can be learned from biological systems that are living proof of robust systems. Our research focuses on robust systems by integrating multimodel perception as well as adaptive behavioral control, particularly for bi-ped walking.

Prof. Jordan Pollack
"Coevolutionary Robots"

I address the problem of robotics, from economic, computational, and biologically inspired perspectives.

Economically, robots have been a failure. Stimulated by fantasy literature, humanity has been expecting humanoid robots to become our ethical slaves, but so far we've only gotten ATM machines and ink-jet printers. Expensive to develop and manufacture, complex robots are just bodies without brains, electronic puppets controlled by humans with joysticks or scripts, waiting for the AI problem to be solved. Few robots ever provide a return on investment.

In nature, the bodies and brains of creatures arise together, the result of a long series of small mutual adaptations. There is never a situation in which the hardware has no software, or where a growth or mutation - beyond the adaptive ability of a brain - survives. This chicken-egg problem of body-brain development may be best understood as a form of co-evolution.

In our lab we have been studying coevolutionary machine learning as an approach to self-organization. The basic idea is that as learner adapts to an environment, the environment adapts to the learner, creating new challenges which (theoretically) lead to a local anti-entropic spiral of complexity. We have had many limited successes in games, optimization, language, and problem solving, before turning to the robotics problem.

Using evolutionary computation, neural networks, physical simulation, and constraints from manufacture, our software generates blueprints and controllers for robots automatically. These are then fabricated from reusable sensors, effectors, and chips, held together with modular parts (like Lego) or by rapid prototyping (robotically manufactured).

Besides pointing the way to really cheap disposable robots, our work also illustrates how design can emerge without a designer from the interaction of evolution and physics.

Dr. Owen Holland
"From the Imitation of Life to Machine Consciousness"

In 1949, Grey Walter, an English neurophysiologist, produced the first autonomous mobile robot designed to be 'an imitation of life'. He identified a number of characteristics typical of living beings, and showed that his robot, the famous 'turtle' or 'tortoise', could demonstrate analogues of these characteristics in normal room environments. Remarkably, the robot achieved all this using only two vacuum tubes, or 'brain cells'. How was this possible? Recently discovered documents show that Grey Walter used an early form of the behaviour-based technology that is now dominant in the design of small robots. The first part of this talk details and analyses Grey Walter's achievements, emphasising that many of his insights and methods are still relevant today. Although he left little in the way of formal records of his research, it has been possible to reconstruct much of what he did from contemporary photographs and films, and the talk draws heavily on these sources.

The second part of the talk examines a modern enterprise as challenging as Grey Walter's search for 'an imitation of life': the quest for machine consciousness. If successful, this will have profound and far-reaching effects on science, on society, and on industry. How can we approach this problem? Do we yet know enough about consciousness to even begin? Is the necessary technology available? How will we know if we have succeeded? And what part will robots play in all this? These and other questions are discussed, and several examples of current research into the subject are presented. In 1994, Francis Crick hoped that: "...before long, every laboratory working in the visual system of man and the other vertebrates will have a large sign posted on its walls, reading CONSCIOUSNESS NOW". The talk argues that, before long, this sign will be seen in many robotics laboratories too.

Dr. Dario Floreano
"Evolution of Spiking Neural Controllers for Autonomous Vision-based Robots"

Vision is a major source of sensory information for robots that live and operate in our natural environments. Current electronics technologies, such as CMOS and analog VLSI circuits, allow the construction of miniature, dense, and low-power vision circuits that can be embedded in a variety of autonomous robots, ranging from 1 inch mobile robots to micro air vehicles. Given the constraints of energy consumption and real-time operation it is unlikely that general-purpose, number-crunching image processing techniques are suited for these robots. In this talk we shall describe two sets of experiments where we take an evolutionary approach to investigate simple, fast, and energy-efficient mechanisms to perform complex vision-based behaviors. In both cases, the idea is to exploit dynamical properties of circuits made of simple components.In the first set of experiments, we evolve circuits of spiking neurons for robust vision-based navigation. These networks, which can be implemented in low-power analog VLSI circuits, are difficult to design for a given functionality, but are easy to evolve and outperform similar networks of conventional McCulloch-Pitts neurons for their rich dynamical behaviors. Instead, in the second set of experiments we assume that we have a micro-processor with limited computational abilities and evolve an active vision system that is free to scan the visual field in order to discover simple and relevant features that are useful for the visual task. We show a few examples where such an evolved vision system can discriminate between complex shapes where multi-layer neural networks trained with supervised algorithms fail. We also show how the system can be used for a task of robot navigation with a mobile camera.

Prof. Rodney Brooks
"Steps Towards Living Machines"

We still do not understand what it is that makes living matter alive. If we did we could build living machines, but it is clear that we do not have the technology to do that today.

Living machines would be able to self-reproduce, find their own sources of energy, and repair themselves to some degree. They need not necessarily be built from our standard materials, silicon and metal. Living machines will change all of our technologies with equivalent disruption as that introduced by electricity and that by plastics. Living machines will invade the fabric of our everyday lives.

There are three thrusts to trying to build living machines. First is to build robots with partial characteristics of living machines, looking for the key intellectual ideas that make them possible. The second is to use generalized evolutionary systems to investigate possible mechanisms and designs. Generalized evolutionary systems use analogs of physical processes to organize the world for evolving systems, living in that world. The third thrust is to develop a new mathematics of living systems. This new mathematics interacts with the first two thrusts in two ways. It is inspired by the first two thrusts to formalize the notions developed there. Additionally it is used to provide constraints on the design spaces in the first two thrusts, to guide the research work to the appropriate areas.

Dr. Francesco Mondada
"Interactions between Art and Mobile Robotic System Engineering"

Mobile robotics offers a new media for public entertainment and art. Mobile robots can display behaviour in the real world and this behaviour can be a new artistic or entertainment support, very different from sculptures, drawings or video. This new artistic or entertainment support, like other technological supports like video or Internet, need a strong and very specific technical know-how. Most of the actual robotic art and even entertainment does not exploit the potentiality of the mobile robotics field. Many artists exploit only the motion aspect, but are unable to create real behaviours. Others exploit the effect of the existing robot image with simplistic realisations. Only few artists try to really integrate mobile robotics in their approach. This integration is an important effort, mobile robotics being itself an interdisciplinary field including artificial intelligence, electronics, computer science, mechanics and much more. The design of a mobile robot need a strong interdisciplinary and system oriented engineering process. The addition of artistic or entertainment constrains bring a new dimension to the problem and need a strong coherent approach.

This paper illustrates this interdisciplinary approach with six examples of projects of robotic art or entertainment made during my work at K-Team in the last 5 years. Some of them are very simple realisations, others have received prizes in international artistic exhibitions. All have similar problems and need similar methodologies. Several issues are discussed, including the effects on visitors (positive or negative, objective or subjective, intentional or not), the problems of interactions between artists and engineers, aspects of mechanic, electronic and behavioural design applied to entertainment and other issues developed during specific projects. These examples will be used to illustrate methodological issues needed in this interdisciplinary work.

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