Evolutionary Developmental Soft Robotics As a Framework to Study Intelligence and Adaptive Behavior in Animals and Plants

Francesco Corucci*, Nick Cheney, Sam Kriegman, Josh Bongard, Cecilia Laschi

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

11 Scopus citations


In this paper, a comprehensive methodology and simulation framework will be reviewed, designed in order to study the emergence of adaptive and intelligent behavior in generic soft-bodied creatures. By incorporating artificial evolutionary and developmental processes, the system allows to evolve complete creatures (brain, body, developmental properties, sensory, control system, etc.) for different task environments. Whether the evolved creatures will resemble animals or plants is in general not known a priori, and depends on the specific task environment set up by the experimenter. In this regard, the system may offer a unique opportunity to explore differences and similarities between these two worlds. Different material properties can be simulated and optimized, from a continuum of soft/stiff materials, to the interconnection of heterogeneous structures, both found in animals and plants alike. The adopted genetic encoding and simulation environment are particularly suitable in order to evolve distributed sensory and control systems, which play a particularly important role in plants. After a general description of the system some case studies will be presented, focusing on the emergent properties of the evolved creatures. Particular emphasis will be on some unifying concepts that are thought to play an important role in the emergence of intelligent and adaptive behavior across both the animal and plant kingdoms, such as morphological computation and morphological developmental plasticity. Overall, with this paper, we hope to draw attention on set of tools, methodologies, ideas and results, which may be relevant to researchers interested in plant-inspired robotics and intelligence.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number34
JournalFrontiers in Robotics and AI
StatePublished - Jul 17 2017


  • animal intelligence
  • developmental robotics
  • evo-devo-soro
  • evolutionary robotics
  • morphological computation
  • morphological developmental plasticity
  • plant intelligence
  • soft robotics

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Computer Science Applications
  • Artificial Intelligence


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