Emergence of behavior through morphology: A case study on an octopus inspired manipulator

Thomas George Thuruthel, Egidio Falotico, Federico Renda, Tamar Flash, Cecilia Laschi

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

9 Scopus citations


The complex motion abilities of the Octopus vulgaris have been an intriguing research topic for biologists and roboticists alike. Various studies have been conducted on the underlying control architectures employed by these high dimensional biological organisms. Researchers have attempted to replicate these architectures on robotic systems. Contrary to previous approaches, this study focuses on a robotic system, which is only morphologically similar to the Octopus vulgaris, and how it would behave under different control policies. This sheds light on the underlying optimality principles that these biological systems employ. Open loop control policies are obtained through a trajectory optimization method on a learned forward dynamic model. The motion patterns emerging from variations in morphology and environment were then derived to study the role of the body and environment. Results show that for the specific case of dynamic reaching with a soft appendage, the invariance in motion profile is a fundamental constraint imposed by the morphology and environment, independent from the controller. This suggests how morphological design can simplify stable control even for highly dimensional nonlinear dynamical systems and can provide insights into design of new soft robotic mechanisms.

Original languageBritish English
Article number034001
JournalBioinspiration and Biomimetics
Issue number3
StatePublished - 24 Apr 2019


  • behavioral science
  • emergent behavior
  • morphological computation
  • optimal control
  • Soft robotics


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