Self-reconfigurable robots are constructed of robotic modules that can be connected in many different ways. These modules move in relationship to each other, which allows the robot as a whole to change shape. This shapeshifting makes it possible for the robots to adapt and optimize their shapes for different tasks. Thus, a self-reconfigurable robot can first assume the shape of a rolling track to cover distance quickly, then the shape of a snake to explore a narrow space, and finally the shape of a hexapod to carry an artifact back to the starting point.
The switched sequence of the concepts "Simulation" and "Synthesis" in the title of the conference emphasizes some changes within the Alife community. The Alife XII submissions consist of a significantly higher fraction of wet Alife papers than at any earlier Alife conference. The submissions are also congruent with a clearer view in the broader scientific community on how we might create life either from scratch or through top-down design.