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The University of Southampton

ALife conference to reveal new approaches to robot role-play

Published: 29 July 2008

The use of artificial evolution to enable robots to assume roles will be described by researchers at the first European conference on Artificial Life (ALIFE XI), which will be held in Winchester from 5-8 August.

On Friday 8 August, a paper entitled Self-Assembly in Physical Autonomous Robots: the Evolutionary Robotics Approach will be presented. The researchers will describe a new approach to the design of homogenous neuro-controllers for self-assembly in physical autonomous robots in which no assumptions are made about how agents allocate roles.

The researchers will describe how artificial evolution is used to set the parameters of a dynamic neural network that, when ported on two physical robots, allows them to co-ordinate their actions in order to decide who will grip whom.

The authors of the paper are: Elio Tuci, Christos Ampatzis and Marco Dorigo at IRIDIA, Université Libre de Bruxelles, Brussels, Belgium; Vito Trianni at ISTC, Consiglio Nazionale delle Ricerche, Rome, Italy; and Anders Christensen at DCTI-ISCTE, Universidade de Lisboa, Lisbon, Portugal.

The newly-formed Science and Engineering of Natural Systems (SENSe) group within the University of Southampton's School of Electronics and Computer Science (ECS) is hosting this year's conference, which will take place at the University of Winchester West Downs Campus, involving 250 participants and more paper presentations than ever before.

"This is a critical time for Artificial Life," said Dr Seth Bullock of ECS, the conference chairman. "The field is on the verge of synthesising living cells, a feat that the Artificial Life community could only dream of when it started out in the late 80s."

Keynote speakers include internationally leading experts such as Professor Stuart Kauffman, author of The Origins of Order, Professor Peter Schuster, editor-in-chief of the journal Complexity, Professor Eva Jablonka, author of Evolution in Four Dimensions (with Marion Lamb), and Professor Andrew Ellington, a leading pioneer in the new science of synthetic biology.

Professor Takashi Ikegami from the University of Tokyo will open the conference, speaking on work spanning self-organisation and autopoiesis in systems of birds, robots, children, flies, cells, and even oil droplets. The conference is unified by a focus on understanding the fundamental behavioural dynamics of embedded, embodied, evolving and adaptive systems.

For further information on the conference, please visit:

Notes for editors

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  • With around 500 researchers, and 900 undergraduate students, the School of Electronics and Computer Science at Southampton is one of the world's largest and most successful integrated research groupings, covering Computer Science, Software Engineering, Electronics, and Electrical Engineering. ECS has unrivalled depth and breadth of expertise in world-leading research, new developments and their applications.

  • The University of Southampton is a leading UK teaching and research institution with a global reputation for leading-edge research and scholarship.

    This is one of the country's top institutions for engineering, computer science and medicine, and home to a range of world-leading research centres, including the National Oceanography Centre, Southampton, the Institute of Sound and Vibration Research, the Optoelectronics Research Centre, the Centre for the Developmental Origins of Health and Disease, and the Mountbatten Centre for International Studies.

    We combine academic excellence with an innovative and entrepreneurial approach to research, supporting a culture that engages and challenges students and staff in their pursuit of learning.

    As one of the UK's leading research universities, we offer first-rate opportunities and facilities for study and research across a wide range of subjects in humanities, health, science and engineering.
    We have over 22,000 students, around 5000 staff, and an annual turnover in the region of £350 million.

  • For further information and press registration at the conference, contact:

    Hélène Murphy, Media Relations Consultant to the School of Electronics and Computer Science, University of Southampton, Tel: 07944 847570, email: , or

    Joyce Lewis, Communications Manager, School of Electronics and Computer Science, University of Southampton, Tel. 023 8059 5453; email

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