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No AccessInvertebrate Sensory Information Processing: Implications for Biologically Inspired Autonomous Systems

A Biologically Inspired Controller for Hexapod Walking: Simple Solutions by Exploiting Physical Properties

Department of Biological Cybernetics, University of Bielefeld, P.O. Box 100131, D-33501 Bielefeld, FRG

This paper was originally presented at a workshop titled Invertebrate Sensory Information Processing: Implications for Biologically Inspired Autonomous Systems. The workshop, which was held at the J. Erik Jonsson Center for the National Academy of Sciences, Woods Hole, Massachusetts, from 15–17 April 2000, was sponsored by the Center for Advanced Studies in the Space Life Sciences at the Marine Biological Laboratory, and funded by the National Aeronautics and Space Administration under Cooperative Agreement NCC 2-896.

The locomotor system of slowly walking insects is well suited for coping with highly irregular terrain and therefore might represent a paragon for an artificial six-legged walking machine. Our investigations of the stick insect Carausius morosus indicate that these animals gain their adaptivity and flexibility mainly from the extremely decentralized organization of the control system that generates the leg movements. Neither the movement of a single leg nor the coordination of all six legs (i.e., the gait) appears to be centrally pre-programmed. Thus, instead of using a single, central controller with global knowledge, each leg appears to possess its own controller with only procedural knowledge for the generation of the leg’s movement. This is possible because exploiting the physical properties avoids the need for complete information on the geometry of the system that would be a prerequisite for explicitly solving the problems. Hence, production of the gait is an emergent property of the whole system, in which each of the six single-leg controllers obeys a few simple and local rules in processing state-dependent information about its neighbors.