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My research explores how mechanisms can act as
minds. Specifically, I use genetic algorithms (GAs) to
understand the ways in which natural and artificial
systems can leverage complex real-world dynamics to
their advantage. In the realm of robotics, I am exploring how
aspects of control which are normally attributed to
cognition (in animals) or computation (in robots) can
instead be ``outsourced'' directly into body
dynamics. In the realm of 3-D
printing, I am exploring
how GAs running on rapid prototyping 3D printers can be
used to invent entirely new physical objects and
entirely new forms of fabrication.
Tensegrities, like this toy here, are composed of rigid rods and tensile strings, and maintain their shape due do a complex interplay of tension and compression.
We do this by mounting pager motors on the rods and using a genetic algorithm to find motor frequencies which induce locomotion. A digital video camera records motion and measures fitness.
Evolutionary Fabrication (EvoFab) seeks to combine recent innovations in desktop rapid prototyping with the creative power of genetic algorithm-based Evolutionary Design in order to create a machine which can automatically design and build completely novel objects.
The EvoFab(0.2) consists of a Fab@Home prototyper which prints objects out of play-doh, a camera to measure the fitness of printed objects, and an arduino-controlled LEGO conveyor belt to move objects once they are printed.