On the Impact of Body Material Properties on Neuroevolution for Embodied Agents: the Case of Voxel-based Soft Robots




Eric Medvet, Giorgia Nadizar, Federico Pigozzi


Workshop on Neuroevolution at Work (NEWK@GECCO), held in Boston (USA)



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Abstract #

Artificial agents required to perform non-trivial tasks are commonly controlled with Artificial Neural Networks (ANNs), which need to be carefully fine-tuned. This is where ANN optimization comes into play, often in the form of Neuroevolution (NE). Among artificial agents, the embodied ones, are characterized by a strong body-brain entanglement, i.e., a strong interdependence between the physical properties of the body and the controller. In this work, we aim at characterizing said interconnection, experimentally evaluating the impact body material properties have on NE for embodied agents. We consider the case of Voxel-based Soft Robots (VSRs), a class of simulated modular soft robots which achieve movement through the rhythmical contraction and expansion of their modules. We experiment varying several physical properties of VSRs and assess the effectiveness of the evolved controllers for the task of locomotion, together with their robustness and adaptability. Our results confirm the existence of a deep body-brain interrelationship for embodied agents, and highlight how NE fruitfully exploits the physical properties of the agents to give rise to a wide gamut of effective and adaptable behaviors.