Incremental Evolutionary Methods for Automatic Programming of Robot Controllers
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The aim of the main work in the thesis is to investigate Incremental Evolution methods for designing a suitable behavior arbitration mechanism for behavior-based (BB) robot controllers for autonomous mobile robots performing tasks of higher complexity. The challenge of designing effective controllers for autonomous mobile robots has been intensely studied for few decades. Control Theory studies the fundamental control principles of robotic systems. However, the technological progress allows, and the needs of advanced manufacturing, service, entertainment, educational, and mission tasks require features beyond the scope of the standard functionality and basic control. Artificial Intelligence has traditionally looked upon the problem of designing robotics systems from the high-level and top-down perspective: given a working robotic device, how can it be equipped with an intelligent controller. Later approaches advocated for better robustness, modifiability, and control due to a bottom-up layered incremental controller and robot building (Behavior-Based Robotics, BBR). Still, the complexity of programming such system often requires manual work of engineers. Automatic methods might lead to systems that perform task on demand without the need of expert robot programmer. In addition, a robot programmer cannot predict all the possible situations in the robotic applications. Automatic programming methods may provide flexibility and adaptability of the robotic products with respect to the task performed. One possible approach to automatic design of robot controllers is Evolutionary Robotics (ER). Most of the experiments performed in the field of ER have achieved successful learning of target task, while the tasks were of limited complexity. This work is a marriage of incremental idea from the BBR and automatic programming of controllers using ER. Incremental Evolution allows automatic programming of robots for more complex tasks by providing a gentle and easy-to understand support by expertknowledge — division of the target task into sub-tasks. We analyze different types of incrementality, devise new controller architecture, implement an original simulator compatible with hardware, and test it with various incremental evolution tasks for real robots. We build up our experimental field through studies of experimental and educational robotics systems, evolutionary design, distributed computation that provides the required processing power, and robotics applications. University research is tightly coupled with education. Combining the robotics research with educational applications is both a useful consequence as well as a way of satisfying the necessary condition of the need of underlying application domain where the research work can both reflect and base itself.