Skip to main content

A Modular Robot Driven by Protoplasmic Streaming

  • Chapter


Self-reconfigurable robots are expected to exhibit various interesting abilities, such as adaptivity and fault tolerance. These remarkable abilities originate from the fact that their mechanical systems intrinsically possess very large degrees of freedom. This, however, causes a serious problem, i.e., controllability. To overcome this, autonomous decentralized control is expected to play a crucial role, as widely observed in living organisms. However, much is still not understood about how such decentralized control can be achieved. This is mainly because the logic connecting local behaviors to global behaviors is still not understood. In this study, we particularly focus on a very primitive living organism, slime mold (physarum polycepharum), since it is believed to employ a fully decentralized control based on coupled biochemical oscillators. We modeled a decentralized control algorithm based on coupled nonlinear oscillators and then implement this into a two-dimensional modular robot consisting of incompressible fluid (i.e., protoplasm) covered with an outer skin composed of a network of passive and realtime tunable springs. Preliminary simulation results showed that this modular robot exhibits significantly supple locomotion similar to amoeboid locomotion and that the exploitation of the “long-distant interaction” stemming from “the law of conservation of protoplasmic mass” performs some of the “computation” that the controller would otherwise have to carry out. As a consequence, adaptive amoeboid locomotion emerges without the need for any centralized control system. The results obtained are also expected to shed new light on how control and mechanical systems with large degrees of freedom should be coupled.


  • Slime Mold
  • Outer Skin
  • Modular Robot
  • Distant Module
  • Protoplasmic Streaming

These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.

This is a preview of subscription content, access via your institution.

Buying options

USD   29.95
Price excludes VAT (USA)
  • DOI: 10.1007/978-3-642-00644-9_17
  • Chapter length: 10 pages
  • Instant PDF download
  • Readable on all devices
  • Own it forever
  • Exclusive offer for individuals only
  • Tax calculation will be finalised during checkout
USD   219.00
Price excludes VAT (USA)
  • ISBN: 978-3-642-00644-9
  • Instant PDF download
  • Readable on all devices
  • Own it forever
  • Exclusive offer for individuals only
  • Tax calculation will be finalised during checkout
Softcover Book
USD   279.99
Price excludes VAT (USA)
Hardcover Book
USD   349.99
Price excludes VAT (USA)


Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.

Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.


  1. Kobayashi, R., Tero, A., Nagasaki, T.: Mathematical Model for Rhythmic Protoplasmic Movement in the True Slime Mold. Mathematical Biology 53, 273–286 (2006)

    CrossRef  MATH  MathSciNet  Google Scholar 

  2. Wainwright, S.A.: Axis and Circumference: The Cylindrical Shape of Plants and Animals. Harvard Univ. Press (1988)

    Google Scholar 

  3. Pfeifer, R., Scheier, C.: Understanding Intelligence. MIT Press, Cambridge (1999)

    Google Scholar 

  4. Asama, H., et al.: System Principle on Emergence of Mobiligence and Its Engineering Realization. In: Proc. of the 2003 IEEE/RSJ IROS, Las Vegas, Nevada, pp. 1715–1720 (2003)

    Google Scholar 

  5. Pfeifer, R., Iida, F.: Morphological Computation: Connecting Body, Brain and Environment. Japanese Scientific Monthly 58(2), 48–54 (2005)

    Google Scholar 

  6. Takamatsu, A., Tanaka, R., Yamada, H., Nakagaki, T., Fujii, T., Endo, I.: Spatio-temporal symmetry in rings of coupled biological oscillators of Physarum plasmodium. Phys. Rev. Lett. 87, 078102 (2001)

    CrossRef  Google Scholar 

  7. Ishiguro, A., Kawakatsu, T.: How Should Control and Body Systems be Coupled? — A Robotic Case Study. In: Iida, F., Pfeifer, R., Steels, L., Kuniyoshi, Y. (eds.) Embodied Artificial Intelligence. LNCS, vol. 3139, pp. 107–118. Springer, Heidelberg (2004)

    Google Scholar 

  8. Kuramoto, Y.: Chemical Oscillations, Waves, and Turbulence, 2nd edn. Dover, Mineola (2003)

    Google Scholar 

Download references

Author information

Authors and Affiliations


Editor information

Editors and Affiliations

Rights and permissions

Reprints and Permissions

Copyright information

© 2009 Springer-Verlag Berlin Heidelberg

About this chapter

Cite this chapter

Umedachi, T., Kitamura, T., Takeda, K., Nakagaki, T., Kobayashi, R., Ishiguro, A. (2009). A Modular Robot Driven by Protoplasmic Streaming. In: Asama, H., Kurokawa, H., Ota, J., Sekiyama, K. (eds) Distributed Autonomous Robotic Systems 8. Springer, Berlin, Heidelberg.

Download citation

  • DOI:

  • Publisher Name: Springer, Berlin, Heidelberg

  • Print ISBN: 978-3-642-00643-2

  • Online ISBN: 978-3-642-00644-9

  • eBook Packages: EngineeringEngineering (R0)