Frictional Anisotropic Locomotion and Adaptive Neural Control for a Soft Crawling Robot

Naris Asawalertsak, Franziska Heims, Alexander Kovalev, Stanislav N. Gorb, Jonas Jørgensen, Poramate Manoonpong*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalJournal articleResearchpeer-review


Crawling animals with bendable soft bodies use the friction anisotropy of their asymmetric body structures to traverse various substrates efficiently. Although the effect of friction anisotropy has been investigated and applied to robot locomotion, the dynamic interactions between soft body bending at different frequencies (low and high), soft asymmetric surface structures at various aspect ratios (low, medium, and high), and different substrates (rough and smooth) have not been studied comprehensively. To address this lack, we developed a simple soft robot model with a bioinspired asymmetric structure (sawtooth) facing the ground. The robot uses only a single source of pressure for its pneumatic actuation. The frequency, teeth aspect ratio, and substrate parameters and the corresponding dynamic interactions were systematically investigated and analyzed. The study findings indicate that the anterior and posterior parts of the structure deform differently during the interaction, generating different frictional forces. In addition, these parts switched their roles dynamically from push to pull and vice versa in various states, resulting in the robot's emergent locomotion. Finally, autonomous adaptive crawling behavior of the robot was demonstrated using sensor-driven neural control with a miniature laser sensor installed in the anterior part of the robot. The robot successfully adapted its actuation frequency to reduce body bending and crawl through a narrow space, such as a tunnel. The study serves as a stepping stone for developing simple soft crawling robots capable of navigating cluttered and confined spaces autonomously.
Original languageDanish
JournalSoft Robotics
Publication statusE-pub ahead of print - 30. Nov 2022


  • soft robotics
  • friction
  • locomotion

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