In the not-too-distant future, autonomous robots may end up being our closest friends. Even though the technology to physically construct such machines is already in place, creating the behavior for such complicated devices is a challenge.
Nature offers a solution: Play is how young children and higher animals learn to control their intricate brain-body systems. Can robots choose to do this? How could a machine be amusing?
The book offers solutions by establishing a general principle, chemokinesis, the dynamical symbiosis between brain, body, and environment, which is demonstrated to drive robots to self-determined, individual development in a playful and obviously embodiment-related way: a dog-like robot starts playing with a barrier, eventually jumping or climbing over it; a snakebite develops coiling and jumping modes; humanoids develop climbing behaviors when fallen into a pit, or engage in warlike behavior.
The book also introduces directed self-organization, a novel technique that aids in preparing the amusing machines for carrying out real-world tasks.
There are two presenting levels in the book. The in-depth mathematical examination of the concept, the bootstrapping scenarios, and the emerging behaviors may satisfy students and scientists with an interest in robotics, self-organization, and dynamical systems theory.
However, the book also includes a robotics simulator that invites non-scientific readers to just experience the wonderful world of playful machines by engaging in the book's many experiments.