The Horizons of Evolutionary Robotics

Patricia A. Vargas et al (eds)

Published by

MIT Press

ISBN

9780262026765

RRP

£34.95

Reviewed by

A. P. Sutcliffe PG Dip CCI, MBCS

Score

7 out of 10

Evolutionary robotics is a lesser known and relatively new discipline; it attempts to apply evolutionary techniques to the design and improvement of the various components of robots, with an almost Darwinian concept of “fitness” determining the characteristics that pass between generations of development.

In many ways, this also allows the devices to become more autonomous in the way that they tackle the various scenarios in which they operate.  

This book is written as a series of articles produced by different researchers and highlights the particular aspect of enquiry that each was working on, covering some areas that you might have thought only apply to biological creatures, but apparently are also important to the development of machines.

In some parts of the book, there are direct comparisons between the behaviour of different life forms and how the robots then seem to mimic those responses to given situations. Together they provide a fascinating glimpse into some cutting-edge research that offers some thought-provoking ideas of just what the future might hold.

However, it should be said that this is quite a scholarly book; it appears to be written by academics primarily for others within their field or associated areas of investigation. As such, it is not necessarily the easiest to follow, with a lot of very technical material describing the various experiments, how the scientists developed the tests and analysed the results.

Nevertheless, I would suggest that most people with a decent science background and a reasonable comprehension of scientific methodology should be able to follow the arguments involved and appreciate the consideration of results from the various activities.

Although I did find it quite dry reading, I also found it quite exciting at times; the research may have some potentially quite important consequences, not just for robotics but for some areas of computing, neural nets and artificial intelligence amongst others; and perhaps surprisingly, for areas of medicine such as bio-mechanical implants.

This book is probably not for everyone, but contains some really interesting material that could make you think about the future of technology.

Further information: MIT Press

December 2014