Physics of Living Systems Seminar (Prof. Nick Gravish)

Adaptive oscillatory locomotion in animals and robots—from synchronizing swarms to flapping-wing flyers


Locomotion in living systems and bio-inspired robots requires the generation and control of oscillatory motion. While a common method to generate motion is through modulation of time-dependent “clock” signals, in this talk we will motivate and study an alternative method of oscillatory generation through autonomous limit-cycle systems. Limit-cycle oscillators for robotics have many desirable properties including adaptive behaviors, entrainment between oscillators, and potential simplification of motion control. I will present several examples of the generation and control of autonomous oscillatory motion in bio-inspired robotics. First, I will describe our recent work to study the dynamics of wingbeat oscillations in “asynchronous” insects and how we can build these behaviors into micro-aerial vehicles. In the second part of this talk I will describe how limit-cycle gait generation in collective robots can enable swarms to synchronize their movement through contact and without communication. More broadly in this talk I hope to motivate why we should look to autonomous dynamical systems for: 1) designing and controlling emergent locomotor behaviors in bio-inspired robotics, and 2) their applications to understand biological locomotion.

Bio: Dr. Nick Gravish received his PhD from Georgia Tech where he used robots as physical models to motivate and study aspects of biological locomotion. During his post-doc Gravish worked in the microrobotics lab at Harvard, where he designed and studied insect-scale robots. Gravish is currently an associate professor at UC San Diego in the Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering department and the Contextual Robotics Institute. His lab spans the areas of bio-inspiration, biomechanics, and robotics for science and innovation.

Event Details


  • Date: 
    Tuesday, April 4, 2023 - 3:00pm to 4:00pm

Klaus Advanced Computing Building Klaus 1116 West

For More Information Contact

Prof. Simon Sponberg