Animals exhibit astoundingly adaptive and supple locomotion under real world constraints. In order to endow robots with similar capabilities, we must implement many degrees of freedom, equivalent to animals, into the robots' bodies. For taming many degrees of freedom, the concept of autonomous decentralized control plays a pivotal role. However a systematic way of designing such autonomous decentralized control system is still missing. Aiming at understanding the principles that underlie animals' locomotion, we have focused on a true slime mold, a primitive living organism, and extracted a design scheme for autonomous decentralized control system. In order to validate this design scheme, this article presents a soft-bodied amoeboid robot inspired by the true slime mold. Significant features of this robot are twofold: (1) the robot has a truly soft and deformable body stemming from real-time tunable springs and protoplasm, the former is used for an outer skin of the body and the latter is to satisfy the law of conservation of mass; and (2) fully decentralized control using coupled oscillators with completely local sensory feedback mechanism is realized by exploiting the long-distance physical interaction between the body parts stemming from the law of conservation of protoplasmic mass. Simulation results show that this robot exhibits highly supple and adaptive locomotion without relying on any hierarchical structure. The results obtained are expected to shed new light on design methodology for autonomous decentralized control system.
- Decentralized control
- Soft and deformable robot