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Evolving soft locomotion in aquatic and terrestrial environments: Effects of material properties and environmental transitions

Evolving soft locomotion in aquatic and terrestrial environments: Effects of material properties and environmental transitions
Evolving soft locomotion in aquatic and terrestrial environments: Effects of material properties and environmental transitions

Designing soft robots poses considerable challenges; automated design approaches may be particularly appealing in this field, as they promise to optimize complex multimaterial machines with very little or no human intervention. Evolutionary soft robotics is concerned with the application of optimization algorithms inspired by natural evolution to let soft robots (both their morphologies and controllers) spontaneously evolve within physically realistic simulated environments, figuring out how to satisfy a set of objectives defined by human designers. In this article, a powerful evolutionary system is put in place to perform a broad investigation on the free-form evolution of simulated walking and swimming soft robots in different environments. Three sets of experiments are reported, tackling different aspects of the evolution of soft locomotion. The first two explore the effects of different material properties on the evolution of terrestrial and aquatic soft locomotion: particularly, we show how different materials lead to the evolution of different morphologies, behaviors, and energy-performance trade-offs. It is found that within our simplified physics world, stiffer robots evolve more sophisticated and effective gaits and morphologies on land, while softer ones tend to perform better in water. The third set of experiments starts investigating the effect and potential benefits of major environmental transitions (land→water) during evolution. Results provide interesting morphological exaptation phenomena and point out a potential asymmetry between land→water and water→land transitions: while the first type of transition appears to be detrimental, the second one seems to have some beneficial effects.

evolutionary soft robotics, evolved soft robots, material properties, optimization, physical simulation, soft locomotion
2169-5172
475-493
Corucci, Francesco
7b3ba3b4-f77b-4493-953c-c4bf03f42dae
Cheney, Nick
cde36337-649b-4888-bbe4-d540ea24fd94
Giorgio-Serchi, Francesco
8571dc14-19c1-4ed1-8080-d380736a6ffa
Bongard, Josh
3970c8a4-fe21-4e98-ae09-28edb7a8fdd3
Laschi, Cecilia
302c8a64-0ba9-4d5c-9d6f-efcfd4acc64a
Corucci, Francesco
7b3ba3b4-f77b-4493-953c-c4bf03f42dae
Cheney, Nick
cde36337-649b-4888-bbe4-d540ea24fd94
Giorgio-Serchi, Francesco
8571dc14-19c1-4ed1-8080-d380736a6ffa
Bongard, Josh
3970c8a4-fe21-4e98-ae09-28edb7a8fdd3
Laschi, Cecilia
302c8a64-0ba9-4d5c-9d6f-efcfd4acc64a

Corucci, Francesco, Cheney, Nick, Giorgio-Serchi, Francesco, Bongard, Josh and Laschi, Cecilia (2018) Evolving soft locomotion in aquatic and terrestrial environments: Effects of material properties and environmental transitions. Soft Robotics, 5 (4), 475-493. (doi:10.1089/soro.2017.0055).

Record type: Article

Abstract

Designing soft robots poses considerable challenges; automated design approaches may be particularly appealing in this field, as they promise to optimize complex multimaterial machines with very little or no human intervention. Evolutionary soft robotics is concerned with the application of optimization algorithms inspired by natural evolution to let soft robots (both their morphologies and controllers) spontaneously evolve within physically realistic simulated environments, figuring out how to satisfy a set of objectives defined by human designers. In this article, a powerful evolutionary system is put in place to perform a broad investigation on the free-form evolution of simulated walking and swimming soft robots in different environments. Three sets of experiments are reported, tackling different aspects of the evolution of soft locomotion. The first two explore the effects of different material properties on the evolution of terrestrial and aquatic soft locomotion: particularly, we show how different materials lead to the evolution of different morphologies, behaviors, and energy-performance trade-offs. It is found that within our simplified physics world, stiffer robots evolve more sophisticated and effective gaits and morphologies on land, while softer ones tend to perform better in water. The third set of experiments starts investigating the effect and potential benefits of major environmental transitions (land→water) during evolution. Results provide interesting morphological exaptation phenomena and point out a potential asymmetry between land→water and water→land transitions: while the first type of transition appears to be detrimental, the second one seems to have some beneficial effects.

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More information

e-pub ahead of print date: 9 July 2018
Published date: 1 August 2018
Keywords: evolutionary soft robotics, evolved soft robots, material properties, optimization, physical simulation, soft locomotion

Identifiers

Local EPrints ID: 424476
URI: http://eprints.soton.ac.uk/id/eprint/424476
ISSN: 2169-5172
PURE UUID: f4ea5e98-92ef-402c-bdd4-8dfffd5682e4
ORCID for Francesco Giorgio-Serchi: ORCID iD orcid.org/0000-0002-5090-9007

Catalogue record

Date deposited: 05 Oct 2018 11:37
Last modified: 07 Jun 2022 17:07

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Contributors

Author: Francesco Corucci
Author: Nick Cheney
Author: Francesco Giorgio-Serchi ORCID iD
Author: Josh Bongard
Author: Cecilia Laschi

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