A bioinspired autonomous swimming robot as a tool for studying goal-directed locomotion

L. Manfredi, T. Assaf, S. Mintchev, S. Marrazza, L. Capantini, S. Orofino, L. Ascari, S. Grillner, P. Wallén, Ö Ekeberg, C. Stefanini, P. Dario

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

37 Citations (SciVal)


The bioinspired approach has been key in combining the disciplines of robotics with neuroscience in an effective and promising fashion. Indeed, certain aspects in the field of neuroscience, such as goal-directed locomotion and behaviour selection, can be validated through robotic artefacts. In particular, swimming is a functionally important behaviour where neuromuscular structures, neural control architecture and operation can be replicated artificially following models from biology and neuroscience. In this article, we present a biomimetic system inspired by the lamprey, an early vertebrate that locomotes using anguilliform swimming. The artefact possesses extra- and proprioceptive sensory receptors, muscle-like actuation, distributed embedded control and a vision system. Experiments on optimised swimming and on goal-directed locomotion are reported, as well as the assessment of the performance of the system, which shows high energy efficiency and adaptive behaviour. While the focus is on providing a robotic platform for testing biological models, the reported system can also be of major relevance for the development of engineering system applications.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)513-527
Number of pages15
JournalBiological Cybernetics
Issue number5
Publication statusE-pub ahead of print - 13 Sept 2013

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
The work presented in this manuscript was supported by the European Commission (FP7) within the framework of the LAMPETRA Project (EU contract no 216100). The authors would like to thank Mr Riccardo di Leonardo, Engineer Roberto Lazzarini, Mr Gabriele Favati, Mr Andrea Melani and Engineer Nicodemo Funaro for their advice and help in the fabrication of part of the robot. Finally, thanks to Mr Godfried Jansen van Vuuren for his technical support and many thanks to Lorna Gracie.


  • Bioinspired autonomous robot
  • Compliant robot
  • Distributed control
  • Goal-directed locomotion
  • Lamprey-like robot
  • Muscle-like actuation

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Biotechnology
  • Computer Science(all)


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