Simple or complex bodies? Trade-offs in exploiting body morphology for control

Matej Hoffmann, Vincent C. Müller

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapterAcademicpeer-review

3 Citations (Scopus)


Engineers fine-tune the design of robot bodies for control purposes; however, a methodology or set of tools is largely absent, and optimization of morphology (shape, material properties of robot bodies, etc.) is lagging 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 ‘morphological computation’. In this article, we briefly review different notions of computation by physical systems and propose the dynamical systems framework as the most useful in the context of describing and eventually designing the interactions of controllers and bodies. Then, we look at the pros and cons of simple versus complex bodies, critically reviewing the attractive notion of ‘soft’ bodies automatically taking over control tasks. We 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.

Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationStudies in Applied Philosophy, Epistemology and Rational Ethics
EditorsGordana Dodig-Crnkovic, Raffaela Giovagnoli
Place of PublicationCham
Number of pages11
ISBN (Electronic)978-3-319-43784-2
ISBN (Print)978-3-319-43782-8
Publication statusPublished - 1 Jan 2017
Externally publishedYes

Publication series

NameStudies in Applied Philosophy, Epistemology and Rational Ethics
ISSN (Print)2192-6255
ISSN (Electronic)2192-6263

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