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Explorations in design space: unconventional electronics design through artificial evolution

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3 Author(s)
Thompson, A. ; Sch. of Cognitive & Comput. Sci., Sussex Univ., Brighton, UK ; Layzell, P. ; Zebulum, R.

Three hypotheses are formulated. First, in the “design space” of possible electronic circuits, conventional design methods work within constrained regions, never considering most of the whole. Second, evolutionary algorithms can explore some of the regions beyond the scope of contentional methods, raising the possibility that better designs can be found. Third, evolutionary algorithms can in practice produce designs that are beyond the scope of conventional methods, and that are in some sense better. A reconfigurable hardware controller for a robot is evolved, using a conventional architecture with and without orthodox design constraints. In the unconstrained case, evolution exploited the enhanced capabilities of the hardware. A tone discriminator circuit is evolved on an FPGA without constraints, resulting in a structure and dynamics that are foreign to conventional design and analysis. The first two hypotheses are true. Evolution can explore the forms and processes that are natural to the electronic medium, and nonbehavioral requirements can be integrated into this design process, such as fault tolerance. A strategy to evolve circuit robustness tailored to the task, the circuit, and the medium, is presented. Hardware and software tools enabling research progress are discussed. The third hypothesis is a good working one: practically useful but radically unconventional evolved circuits are in sight

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Evolutionary Computation, IEEE Transactions on  (Volume:3 ,  Issue: 3 )