A bright yellow slime mould that can grow to several metres in diameter has been put in charge of a scrabbling, six-legged robot…
Physarum polycephalum is a large single-celled organism that responds to food sources, such as bacteria and fungi, by moving towards and engulfing it. It also moves away from light and favours humid, moist places to inhabit. The mould uses a network of tiny tubes filled with cytoplasm to both sense its environment and decide how to respond to it. Zauner’s team decided to harness this simple control mechanism to direct a small six-legged (hexapod) walking bot. […]
Biology is already influencing the evolution of robots in other ways. For example, researchers led by Chris Melhuish at the University of the West of England in Bristol, UK, have developed robots that generate power by consuming flies.
“Computational autonomy has been studied for some time,” says Ioannis Ieropoulos of the University of Western England team. “For a truly autonomous robot, the level of computational complexity will depend on the available energy.”