Robot moved by a slime mould’s fears

The Physarum polycephalum slime, which shies away from light, has been put in charge of a scrabbling, six-legged robot so that it too keeps out of light and seeks out dark places in which to hide itself.

Klaus-Peter Zauner at the University of Southampton, UK, developed the slime-controlled bot with colleagues from Kobe University, Japan.


The bright yellow slime uses tiny tubes filled with cytoplasm to sense its environment and decide how to respond to it. Zauner’s team decided to harness this control mechanism to direct a small six-legged (hexapod) walking bot.

They grew slime on top of a circuit and connected it remotely, via a computer, to the bot. Any light shone on sensors mounted on top of the robot were used to control light shone onto one of the six points of the circuit-mounted mould – each corresponding to a leg of the bot.

As the slime tried to get away from the light its movement was sensed by the circuit and used to control one of the robot’s six legs. The robot then scrabbled away from bright lights as a mechanical embodiment of the mould. Eventually, this type of control could be incorporated into the bot itself rather than used remotely.

Via New Scientist. PDF of the project.