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Biologically Inspired Robotics Laboratory

Department of Engineering

RoboSoft 2019 Workshop on 'Morphological Computation Through Physical Adaptation of Soft Robots'

Seoul, South Korea



Full-day session will be held from 9:00am to 18:00pm at Sunday, Apr 14, 2019. More information on the RoboSoft 2019 conference and details can be found here.


Time Talk
8:50 Opening & Introduction

Session 1: Morphological Computation: What, why, and how?

  • Koh Hosoda, Osaka University. Title: Mophological Computation by Human-like Muscular-Skeletal Structure
  • Fumiya Iida, University of Cambridge. Title: TCB
  • Jonathan Rossiter, University of Bristol. Title: TBC
10:00 - 10:30 Panel Discussion
10:30 - 11:00 Coffee Break
11:00 - 12:00 Session 2: Morphological Computation through Adaption. Growing plant robots, Vine robots, Fabrication approaches and Computation through growing, tool-useage, material change.
  • Bram Vanderborght, Vrije Universiteit Brussel. Title: Multimaterial self healing soft robots
  • Barbara Mazzolai, IIT. Title: Morphological computation in plants for growing robots
  • Laura Helen Blumenschein, Stanford. Title: Harnessing Environmental Interactions of Growing Robots
12:00 - 12:30 Panel Discussion
12:30 - 14:00 Lunch & Discussion
14:00 - 15:00 Session 3: Methods and Approaches to Morphological Computation. Embodied intelligence and sensory-motor integration, Modelling soft-robot systems and self-awareness.
  • Robert Katzschmann, MIT. Title: Biomimetic Swimming and Manipulation with Soft Robots by Exploiting Interactions and Contacts with the Environment
  • Toby Howison, University of Cambridge. Title: TBC
  • John Rieffel, Union College. Title: Tensegrity Robots as a substrate for Morphological Computation
15:00 - 15:30 Panel Discussion
15:30 - 16:00 Coffee Break and Poster Session
16:00 - 17:00

Session 4: Morphological computation for perception and action. Vision for the future: Goals for 2020 and applications and achieving impact.

  • Thrishantha Nanayakkara, Imperial College
  • Josie Hughes, University of Cambridge
  • Matteo Cianchetti, Scuola Superiore Sant'Anna
  • Perla Maiolino, University of Oxford
17:00 + Further Discussion & Planning


Biological systems show an incredible ability to flexibly and dynamically adapt. This is achieved through their ability to change their mechanical bodies by growing, morphogenesis and self-healing. It can also be achieved by augmenting their bodies through tool-useage or tool creation. This approach is seen in nature, for example birds and insects use tools to find food and plant systems can rapidly reconfigure their structure to adapt to changing light conditions. These changes allow the emergence of behaviours to enable survival. Some of the computation is offload from the brain or controller to the physical body, such that the physical body is controlling some of the complex environmental interactions. To enable adaptivity and intelligence which is comparable to animals, robots must show physical changes which enables some of the computation to be offloaded to the physical body. Soft robots demonstrate the compliance necessary to achieve these physical adaptations making them uniquely positioned to take advantage of these approaches. Although this is a significant technological challenge, soft robots have already provided notable demonstrations of growing, morphing and self-healing behaviours. In this workshop we will address how soft robotics can leverage morphological computation to achieve the highly flexible and adaptive behaviours.


The proposed workshop aims to present the latest advances in the fields of adaptive robotics and to understand the role of morphological computation to achieve adaptive systems. This will focus on the ability of soft-robots to physically shape change to enable adaptation and also how the creation or usage of tools can be used to extend this adaptability. Both these methods of adaptation use the physical body to perform some localised computation, reducing the load on the controller and enabling complex environmental interactions necessary for adaption. To achieve adaptive robots we must understanding how this intelligent, adaptive behaviour arises from a physical system and how this ‘intelligence’ can be designed.

Recent advances in material science, rapid prototyping, and soft robotics technologies enable the development of adaptive technologies. This has resulted in exciting research developments in the area of growing, self-healing and shape changing robots. It is now necessary to understand how these technologies can be exploited, and adaptiveness achieved by using morphological computation. This workshop will bring together researchers from a range of different backgrounds to discuss how we this research direction can be advanced from both a technological and philosophical standpoint. Notably, it will involve biologists and anthropologists in addition to robotistics to use inspiration from nature to guide research. This workshop is necessary to enable the sharing of information of different research areas to achieve the disciplinary intersections necessary to achieve adaptive systems.

There are three key research themes to the workshop:

  • Morphological computation through morphology change and growth. Understanding how shape change and growth can achieve localised computation, to extend the behavioural range of systems. Also focusing on the fundamental technologies required for shape change and adaption.
  • Morphological computation through tool use. Investigating how the extension of a body through tool usage enables mechanical complexity to be used to minimize the load on the brain or controller.
  • Achieving self-awareness. As a body grows, the brain must understand how the system has grown and thus how to control the body and interact with the environment. Similarly, when the structure of a body changes through morphogenesis or the use of tools, awareness is required of the change in structure to enable successful environmental interactions.
The workshop will serve to highlight important challenges still facing the field and potential approaches needed to overcome them. Invited speakers from a variety of different field (robotics, biology, anthropology) which give presentations on their latest results and experiences. A number of speakers will also provide a vision for the future of truly adaptive soft robotic systems, to identify the technologies required to achieve intelligence seen in nature. We will also ask for poster presentations or flash talks, to engage with students and other academics in this area.