Typically, investigators write code or build robots from scratch whenever starting a new AI or robotics project. This leads to specialized systems brittle to novel challenges, and lack of reproducibility. Or, off-the-shelf software such as TensorFlow is employed, which restricts work to well-studied phenomena such as synaptic plasticity. These efforts traditionally have difficulty integrating tightly with efforts in biology.

To prove this cycle can be broken, we plan to develop and deploy an open-source, continually running, cloud-based code base in which increasingly protean machines (robots and computer-designed organisms) and protean algorithms (meta learners, architecture-altering methods) are automatically designed using biological change phenomena (BCPs) incorporated as software patches. We hope that such a system could help facilitate biology-to-ALife transdisciplinary work, and help to scale up our community’s collective efforts in this regard.

To test how this approach accelerates transferal of adaptive mechanisms from biology to AI and robotics, we will host a series of workshops to initially brainstorm and then construct such a code base. Anyone willing and able to contribute code to such an effort is welcome to participate.

The First Proteus Workshop


Emphasis will be placed on recruiting a development team, scoping general requirements, identifying key enabling technologies and potential applications.

Topics to be discussed will include relevant software engineering methods and off-the-shelf tools, lessons learned from previous similar efforts (e.g. OpenWorm, the Blue Brain Project, TensorFlow, OpenAI Gym), biology-to-ALife best practices, physics engines, exporting designs to physical hardware (sim2real) and biological artifacts (sim2life), volunteer coding organization, timelining, and other related efforts.

Anyone is welcome to sit in and observe, or actively participate in the brainstorming and (eventually) software development activities.


The Virtual Artificial Life (ALife) Conference. Zoom link will be provided closer to the event.


July 13, 2020

Two introductory 15-minute talks.

One hour of brainstorming.

One hour of next-step planning.



  1. Josh Bongard, University of Vermont

  2. Melanie Moses, University of New Mexico

  3. Nick Cheney, University of Vermont


  1. To be determined.