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Spiders, webs and soft robotics

Fritz Vollrath

Department of Zoology, University of Oxford, Oxford, UK

The spider’s complement of vibration sensors have evolved to filter input, with the lyriform organs on its legs perhaps the most interesting example. A spider’s web (best understood in the orb geometry) incorporates a range of silk threads woven into an intricate structure where, together, filament properties and fabric structure affect vibration transmission. Both spider and web can, separately and together, be interpreted to act as matched filters i.e. morphological computing devices. In this sense the combination of spider and web is a highly evolved, and consequently complex, signal processing mechanism. This suggests that spider and web could provide interesting lessons for the emergent field of soft robotics.

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Fritz Vollrath