Research Topic

Recent Trends in Morphological Computation

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Morphological Computation describes the reduction of the brain’s computational load that results from an exploitation of the body and its interaction with the environment. This is in contrast to the currently dominating control paradigm in robotics, where the body is seen as part of the control problem, i.e. ...

Morphological Computation describes the reduction of the brain’s computational load that results from an exploitation of the body and its interaction with the environment. This is in contrast to the currently dominating control paradigm in robotics, where the body is seen as part of the control problem, i.e. as something that needs to be controlled and that adds complexity to the problem. Biology teaches us that the body is not part of the problem but that it actually is part of the solution. One example is bipedal running on uneven ground (jogging through the woods). This would not be possible if the brain would have to construct a detailed model of the surface in order to carefully place the feet to avoid tripping. The amount of computation and the latency of signal transmission would prohibit humans from running fast on an uneven ground. Yet, it is possible, because of the compliance of the muscle-tendon system.

Morphological Computation has become increasingly important over the last couple of years. One of the main reasons is that we are now able to build compliant robots with soft materials with modern 3D printing technology. The result is that we are now able to build robots that resemble many of the principles found in biological systems, which has led to a vast increase in soft robotic research and soft robotics applications. These range from silicon-based soft robots (e.g. RBO Hand) to complex mechanical constructions (MIT Cheetah).

But also in other fields, such as biomechanics, we are currently seeing more and more detailed models of the skeletal muscle system, which allow us to better understand the contribution of the body to an observed behaviour.

Substantial progress has also been made with formalising Morphological Computation in terms of dynamical systems and information theory, but we currently do not have a full theory of how the body reduces the control effort.

In the context of this Research Topic, we are interested in the current state of the art, review articles and positional papers in any field related to Morphological Computation.


Keywords: Soft Robotics, Morphological Computation, Biomechanics, Control Theory, Material Science


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