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An evolving strategy for a multi-stage placement of charging stations for electrical cars is developed. Both an incremental as well as a decremental placement decomposition are evaluated on this Maximum Covering Location Problem. We show that an incremental Genetic Algorithm benefits from problem decomposition effects of having multiple stages and shows greedy behaviour.

An iterative computer-aided ideation procedure is introduced, building on recent quality-diversity algorithms, which search for diverse as well as high-performing solutions. Dimensionality reduction is used to define a similarity space, in which solutions are clustered into classes. These classes are represented by prototypes, which are presented to the user for selection. In the next iteration, quality-diversity focuses on searching within the selected class. A quantitative analysis is performed on a 2D airfoil, and a more complex 3D side view mirror domain shows how computer-aided ideation can help to enhance engineers' intuition while allowing their design decisions to influence the design process.

Surrogate models are used to reduce the burden of expensive-to-evaluate objective functions in optimization. By creating models which map genomes to objective values, these models can estimate the performance of unknown inputs, and so be used in place of expensive objective functions. Evolutionary techniques such as genetic programming or neuroevolution commonly alter the structure of the genome itself. A lack of consistency in the genotype is a fatal blow to data-driven modeling techniques: interpolation between points is impossible without a common input space. However, while the dimensionality of genotypes may differ across individuals, in many domains, such as controllers or classifiers, the dimensionality of the input and output remains constant. In this work we leverage this insight to embed differing neural networks into the same input space. To judge the difference between the behavior of two neural networks, we give them both the same input sequence, and examine the difference in output. This difference, the phenotypic distance, can then be used to situate these networks into a common input space, allowing us to produce surrogate models which can predict the performance of neural networks regardless of topology. In a robotic navigation task, we show that models trained using this phenotypic embedding perform as well or better as those trained on the weight values of a fixed topology neural network. We establish such phenotypic surrogate models as a promising and flexible approach which enables surrogate modeling even for representations that undergo structural changes.

Current object recognition methods fail on object sets that include both diffuse, reflective and transparent materials, although they are very common in domestic scenarios. We show that a combination of cues from multiple sensor modalities, including specular reflectance and unavailable depth information, allows us to capture a larger subset of household objects by extending a state of the art object recognition method. This leads to a significant increase in robustness of recognition over a larger set of commonly used objects.

Maximal covering location problems have efficiently been solved using evolutionary computation. The multi-stage placement of charging stations for electric cars is an instance of this problem which is addressed in this study. It is particularly challenging, because a final solution is constructed in multiple steps, stations cannot be relocated easily and intermediate solutions should be optimal with respect to certain objectives.

The initial phase in real world engineering optimization and design is a process of discovery in which not all requirements can be made in advance, or are hard to formalize. Quality diversity algorithms, which produce a variety of high performing solutions, provide a unique chance to support engineers and designers in the search for what is possible and high performing. In this work we begin to answer the question how a user can interact with quality diversity and turn it into an interactive innovation aid. By modeling a user's selection it can be determined whether the optimization is drifting away from the user's preferences. The optimization is then constrained by adding a penalty to the objective function. We present an interactive quality diversity algorithm that can take into account the user's selection. The approach is evaluated in a new multimodal optimization benchmark that allows various optimization tasks to be performed. The user selection drift of the approach is compared to a state of the art alternative on both a planning and a neuroevolution control task, thereby showing its limits and possibilities.

Evolutionary computation and genetic algorithms (GAs) in particular have been applied very successfully to many real world application problems. However, the success or failure of applying Genetic Algorithms is highly dependent on how a problem is represented. Additionally, the number of free parameters makes applying these methods a science of its own, presenting a huge barrier to entry for beginners. This tutorial will give a summary on various representational aspects, discuss parametrization and their influence on the dynamics of GAs.

Evolutionary illumination is a recent technique that allows producing many diverse, optimal solutions in a map of manually defined features. To support the large amount of objective function evaluations, surrogate model assistance was recently introduced. Illumination models need to represent many more, diverse optimal regions than classical surrogate models. In this PhD thesis, we propose to decompose the sample set, decreasing model complexity, by hierarchically segmenting the training set according to their coordinates in feature space. An ensemble of diverse models can then be trained to serve as a surrogate to illumination.

Neuroevolution methods evolve the weights of a neural network, and in some cases the topology, but little work has been done to analyze the effect of evolving the activation functions of individual nodes on network size, an important factor when training networks with a small number of samples. In this work we extend the neuroevolution algorithm NEAT to evolve the activation function of neurons in addition to the topology and weights of the network. The size and performance of networks produced using NEAT with uniform activation in all nodes, or homogenous networks, is compared to networks which contain a mixture of activation functions, or heterogenous networks. For a number of regression and classification benchmarks it is shown that, (1) qualitatively different activation functions lead to different results in homogeneous networks, (2) the heterogeneous version of NEAT is able to select well performing activation functions, (3) the produced heterogeneous networks are significantly smaller than homogeneous networks.

In complex, expensive optimization domains we often narrowly focus on finding high performing solutions, instead of expanding our understanding of the domain itself. But what if we could quickly understand the complex behaviors that can emerge in said domains instead? We introduce surrogate-assisted phenotypic niching, a quality diversity algorithm which allows to discover a large, diverse set of behaviors by using computationally expensive phenotypic features. In this work we discover the types of air flow in a 2D fluid dynamics optimization problem. A fast GPU-based fluid dynamics solver is used in conjunction with surrogate models to accurately predict fluid characteristics from the shapes that produce the air flow. We show that these features can be modeled in a data-driven way while sampling to improve performance, rather than explicitly sampling to improve feature models. Our method can reduce the need to run an infeasibly large set of simulations while still being able to design a large diversity of air flows and the shapes that cause them. Discovering diversity of behaviors helps engineers to better understand expensive domains and their solutions.