Symbiotic evolutionary robot organisms (SYMBRION)


Investigating the principles of how large swarms of robots can evolve and adapt together into different organisms based on bio-inspired approaches.

Project aims

The aim is to investigate and develop novel principles of behaviour, adaptation and learning for self-assembling robot "organisms" based on artificial evolution and evolutionary computational approaches. The plan is to combine bio-inspired evolutionary paradigms with robot embodiment and swarm-emergent phenomena thus enabling the "organism" to autonomously manage its own hardware and software organisation.

We hope that such artificial organisms will become self-configuring, self-healing, self-optimising and self-protecting from hardware and software points of view. This may lead not only to extremely adaptive, evolvable and scalable robotic systems, but might also enable the robot organisms to reprogram themselves without human supervision; to develop their own cognitive structures and, finally, to allow new functionality to emerge: the most suitable for the given situation.

  • SYMBRION will for the first time consider a truly symbiotic multi-cellular construction of real-world artificial organisms. Elementary robots equivalent to single cells will build artificial-life-forms with a central nervous system, common energy resources and homoeostasis at the level of the whole organism.
  • The heterogeneous elementary robots will be capable of autonomous aggregation and disaggregation into/from the organism (without human assistance) and will be capable of autonomous energy collection (survival) in their habitat.
  • SYMBRION uniquely focuses on the principles and aspects of long and short-term artificial evolution together with evolvability and adaptivity for real multi-agent systems with symbiotic principles of self-organisation and emergence. Such artificial symbiosis has not been attempted with real embodied agents.
  • SYMBRION has the potential to address fundamental questions such as "how many cells with different DNA can form an organism with one common DNA?", "how does specialisation of cells within the organism appear?", "how can 'cancer cells' appear within the organism?" - ie questions which are open and highly relevant in both scientific and human contexts. The consortium will aim to investigate and test hypotheses for these and other deep questions in a "model" multi-cellular artificial organism, having clear analogies with biological systems.

Scientific and technological objectives

The scientific and technological objectives of the project are:

  1. Main principles of artificial long-term evolution of robotic organisms on the genotype and phenotype levels, applied to software, hardware, topology and functionality of artificial organisms.
  2. Development of bio-inspired and tech-inspired adaptation, self-maintenance and self-optimization strategies applied to symbiotic robotic organisms.
  3. Technological development and design paradigms for super-large-scale pervasive robotic system, capable of autonomous adapting to highly dynamic and open environments.

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Theme Leader

Project leader

More information

Research partner

SYMBRION is a  five-year project led by the University of Stuttgart.

Project team

  • Project leader:
    Prof Alan Winfield
  • Research associate:
    Dr Wenguo Liu
  • PhD Student:
    Jessica Meyer

Page last updated 14 February 2017