A new blob-like robot described in the journal Advanced Robotics uses springs, feet, “protoplasm” and a distributed nervous system to move in a manner inspired by the slime mold Physarum polycepharum.
Umedachi’s goal isn’t simply to create a new kind of locomotion, however. He’s exploring the way in which robots that lack a centralized command center — i.e. a brain — can accomplish things anyway. Slime molds are a perfect model for this sort of thing, because they don’t even have the primitive neural nets that characterize the coordinated swimming and feeding actions in jellyfish.
This paper presents a fluid-filled soft-bodied amoeboid robot inspired by the plasmodium of the true slime mold. The significant features of this robot are 2-fold. (i) The robot has a fluid circuit (i.e., cylinders and nylon tubes filled with fluid), and a truly soft and deformable body stemming from real-time tunable springs — the former seals protoplasm to induce global physical interaction between the body parts and the latter is used for elastic actuators. (ii) A fully decentralized control using coupled oscillators with a completely local sensory feedback mechanism is realized by exploiting the global physical interaction between the body parts stemming from the fluid circuit. The experimental results show that this robot exhibits adaptive locomotion without relying on any hierarchical structure. The results obtained are expected to shed new light on the design scheme for autonomous decentralized control systems.