Scale invariant robot behavior with fractals

Sam Kriegman (University of Vermont),
Amir Mohammadi Nasab (Yale University),
Douglas Blackiston (Tufts University),
Hannah Steele (Yale University),
Michael Levin (Tufts University),
Rebecca Kramer-Bottiglio (Yale University),
Josh Bongard (University of Vermont)
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Paper Website
Paper #059
Interactive Poster Session II Interactive Poster Session VII

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Robots deployed at orders of magnitude different size scales, and that retain the same desired behavior at any of those scales, would greatly expand the environments in which the robots could operate. However it is currently not known whether such robots exist, and, if they do, how to design them. Since self similar structures in nature often exhibit self similar behavior at different scales, we hypothesize that there may exist robot designs that have the same property. Here we demonstrate that this is indeed the case for some, but not all, modular soft robots: there are robot designs that exhibit a desired behavior at a small size scale, and if copies of that robot are attached together to realize the same design at higher scales, those larger robots exhibit similar behavior. We show how to find such designs in simulation using an evolutionary algorithm. Further, when fractal attachment is not assumed and attachment geometries must thus be evolved along with the design of the base robot unit, scale invariant behavior is not achieved, demonstrating that structural self similarity, when combined with appropriate designs, is a useful path to realizing scale invariant robot behavior. We validate our findings by demonstrating successful transferal of self similar structure and behavior to pneumatically-controlled soft robots. Finally, we show that biobots can spontaneously exhibit self similar attachment geometries, thereby suggesting that self similar behavior via self similar structure may be realizable across a wide range of robot platforms in future.

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