'Closing the Loop' in Bio-Inspired Design

Amoeboid Robot Navigates Without a Brain shows the value of 'closing the loop':

  • investigating a natural phenomenon in depth, rather than relying on surface impressions
  • abstracting the underlying principles, rather than superficial similarities
  • making the principles tangible so that they can be tested
  • and lastly comparing the outcome with the original inspiration to further deepen our understanding

The post describes the gap between the current robotic motion and that of animals.  Robots are typically designed for specific environments whereas animal motion is versatile and adaptable, even in very primitive organisms like slime molds that lack any kind of neural networks.  After studying slime molds, researchers developed a simple mathematical model of a three-node oscillator that captured the key attributes of slime mold motion: random movement, movement towards an attractor and spontaneous switching between the two modes, all without a central control mechanism. 

The next step carried out by Takuya Umedachi of Hiroshima University involved developing various physical models that demonstrate in the real world the validity of the mathematical model.  His goal is to develop not only new forms of robotic locomotion but also to advance our understanding of how simple organisms can perform complex tasks. 

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