Robotics and evolution: ‘Epigenetic’ changes affect robot’s development, study finds
Brett Smith| AZO Robotics | April 10, 2017

In a new study published in Frontiers in Robotics and AI, scientists added more intricacy to the field by showing the very first time that robot evolution is affect by developmental factors, just like in biological evolution.

In evolutionary robotics, a sort of “gene pool” is produced, which generates genomes that encode the various control methods of a robot. Each robot is then permitted to act and carry out tasks based on its “genetics”, and the robot’s fitness is rated based on how well it does a particular job. The robots are then “bred” by trading genetic material with each other; similar to genetic material is recombined in sexual reproduction.

While previous research studies have centered on the effects of evolution in physical robots, this is the first time that scientists have also factored in the epigenetic aspect in this kind of experiment.

The outcomes indicated that robot populations with an epigenetic factor progressed in a different ways than populations where development was not factored in. While robots did not evolve greater light capturing abilities, the team said they were excited about the outcomes, since purpose of this preliminary research was to show the significance of including epigenetic factors in robot evolution and to create a strategy that makes this study possible.

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