Trade-offs in exploiting body morphology for control: From simple bodies and model-based control to complex ones with model-free distributed control schemes

In Helmut Hauser, Rudolf M. Füchslin & Rolf Pfeifer (eds.), Opinions and Outlooks on Morphological Computation. E-Book. pp. 185-194 (2014)
Tailoring the design of robot bodies for control purposes is implicitly performed by engineers, however, a methodology or set of tools is largely absent and optimization of morphology (shape, material properties of robot bodies, etc.) is lag- ging behind the development of controllers. This has become even more prominent with the advent of compliant, deformable or "soft" bodies. These carry substantial potential regarding their exploitation for control – sometimes referred to as "mor- phological computation" in the sense of offloading computation needed for control to the body. Here, we will argue in favor of a dynamical systems rather than com- putational perspective on the problem. Then, we will look at the pros and cons of simple vs. complex bodies, critically reviewing the attractive notion of “soft” bodies automatically taking over control tasks. We will address another key dimension of the design space – whether model-based control should be used and to what extent it is feasible to develop faithful models for different morphologies. ----- This paper was also published in the 2014 AISB proceedings -
Keywords soft robotics  control  morphology  embodiment  morphological computation  dynamical systems
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