This paper introduces an algorithm for evolving 3D objects with a generative encoding that abstracts how biological morphologies are produced. Evolving interesting 3D objects is useful in many disciplines, including artistic design (e.g. sculpture), engineering (e.g. robotics, architecture, or product design), and biology (e.g. for investigating morphological evolution). A critical element in evolving 3D objects is the representation, which strongly influences the types of objects produced. In 2007 a representation was introduced called Compositional Pattern Producing Networks (CPPN), which abstracts how natural phenotypes are generated. To date, however, the ability of CPPNs to create 3D objects has barely been explored. Here we present a new way to create 3D objects with CPPNs. Experiments with both interactive and target-based evolution demonstrate that CPPNs show potential in generating interesting, complex, 3D objects. We further show that changing the information provided to CPPNs and the functions allowed in their genomes biases the types of objects produced. Finally, we validate that the objects transfer well from simulation to the real-world by printing them with a 3D printer. Overall, this paper shows that evolving objects with encodings based on concepts from biological development can be a powerful way to evolve complex, interesting objects, which should be of use in fields as diverse as art, engineering, and biology.
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