Frank Grasso

The BioMimetic Approach to Studying the Control and Coordination of Behavior in Robots, Octopuses and other Marine Invertebrates

Soft-bodied animals such as cephalopods (Octopuses, Cuttlefishes, Squids and Nautiluses) are of considerable interests to biomechanicians, neuroscientists and roboticists because our understanding of the motor control in such systems is just in its infancy and offers the possibility of new technologies and understandings of brain function.  Their soft bodies mean that they lack the endo-skeletons of vertebrates (e.g., birds, reptiles, mammals) or the exoskeletons of arthropods (e.g., crustaceans like crabs and lobsters or insects) yet cephalopods animals, particularly octopuses are capable of both fine dexterous manipulation and forceful manipulation with the same appendages. Therefore, for roboticists, octopuses provide existence proofs that dexterous and forceful object manipulation are possible in systems lacking hard parts. For neuroscientists, interests lie in uncovering strategies that octopuses must use to make control of hyper-redundant systems manageable.  One challenge of studying such high degree of freedom systems involves the quantification of the kinematics of motor behavior. In this talk, I will discuss video methods we have developed for the quantification of fine and forceful manipulation by octopuses. I will discuss the biomimetic approach to understanding control and coordination of behavior with parallel studies in robots.

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Octopus pallidus
Image from Wikipedia Commons

Professor Frank Grasso is the director of the BioMimetic and Cognitive Robotics Laboratory. He is a Professor of Psychology at Brooklyn College in the City University of New York.  The BCR lab aims to understand the control and coordination of behavior. We model animal behavior in biomimetic robot platforms that capture the key sensory and motoric aspects of the natural behavior and conduct parallel studies of the animal and the robot performance.  In our work with marine invertebrates, we test the behavior of the robots under the same conditions as we test the animals. In these studies, we use the animal behavior as a yardstick to evaluate the ability of our robot controllers to capture explanation of the animal behavior.