Institute of Computer Science - FORTH
Bio-Inspired Robotic Motion Control
Control of movement, and its relationship to sensing and perception, is one of the most significant problems for emerging robotic applications dealing with unstructured and tortuous environments. Such problems occur, among other domains, in the endoscopic access to the human body, in site inspection, in search-and-rescue operations in collapsed buildings, even in planetary exploration. Drawing inspiration from biology, where such problems have been effectively addressed by the evolutionary process, can help in overcoming limitations of present-day robotic systems and in designing agile robots, able to adapt robustly to a variety of environmental conditions. This talk will describe work inspired by a class of segmented worms, the polychaete annelids, which offer an intriguing biological paradigm of locomotion on sand, mud, sediment, as well as underwater: the variety of their morphology, sensory apparatus and nervous stem structure is a direct consequence of their adaptation to so diverse habitats. Such locomotion capabilities could benefit, if properly replicated, a robotic system functioning in an unstructured environment. The described work focuses on the use of detailed computational models for the mechanics and bio-inspired motion control of this type of locomotion; these models involve the dynamics of the organism's motion, its interaction with the environment and the neural control of its motion, which is based on central pattern generators. This work has been successful in demonstrating the possibility to generate polychaete-like undulatory gaits, as well as novel undulatory reactive behaviors. An experimental effort is also in progress, aiming at the development of robotic prototypes whose motion is based on polychaete-like undulatory gaits and which are able to propel themselves in an unstructured environment.