Evolution of Robotic Behaviour Using Gene Expression Programming
Thesis or dissertation
University of Exeter
The main objective in automatic robot controller development is to devise mechanisms whereby robot controllers can be developed with less reliance on human developers. One such mechanism is the use of evolutionary algorithms (EAs) to automatically develop robot controllers and occasionally, robot morphology. This area of research is referred to as evolutionary robotics (ER). Through the use of evolutionary techniques such as genetic algorithms (GAs) and genetic programming (GP), ER has shown to be a promising approach through which robust robot controllers can be developed. The standard ER techniques use monolithic evolution to evolve robot behaviour: monolithic evolution involves the use of one chromosome to code for an entire target behaviour. In complex problems, monolithic evolution has been shown to suffer from bootstrap problems; that is, a lack of improvement in fitness due to randomness in the solution set [103, 105, 100, 90]. Thus, approaches to dividing the tasks, such that the main behaviours emerge from the interaction of these simple tasks with the robot environment have been devised. These techniques include the subsumption architecture in behaviour based robotics, incremental learning and more recently the layered learning approach [55, 103, 56, 105, 136, 95]. These new techniques enable ER to develop complex controllers for autonomous robot. Work presented in this thesis extends the field of evolutionary robotics by introducing Gene Expression Programming (GEP) to the ER field. GEP is a newly developed evolutionary algorithm akin to GA and GP, which has shown great promise in optimisation problems. The presented research shows through experimentation that the unique formulation of GEP genes is sufficient for robot controller representation and development. The obtained results show that GEP is a plausible technique for ER problems. Additionally, it is shown that controllers evolved using GEP algorithm are able to adapt when introduced to new environments. Further, the capabilities of GEP chromosomes to code for more than one gene have been utilised to show that GEP can be used to evolve manually sub-divided robot behaviours. Additionally, this thesis extends the GEP algorithm by proposing two new evolutionary techniques named multigenic GEP with Linker Evolution (mgGEP-LE) and multigenic GEP with a Regulator Gene (mgGEP-RG). The results obtained from the proposed algorithms show that the new techniques can be used to automatically evolve modularity in robot behaviour. This ability to automate the process of behaviour sub-division and optimisation in a modular chromosome is unique to the GEP formulations discussed, and is an important advance in the development of machines that are able to evolve stratified behavioural architectures with little human intervention.
PhD in Computer Science