Translating the blueprint that batoid fish such as stingrays and skates provide, we created an artificial animal, tissue-engineered ray capable of orchestrating adaptive manoeuvring and phototactic navigation. The impossibility of replicating batoids' neural system is bypassed by outsourcing its algorithmic functionalities to the body composite mechanics. The active control problem is, therefore, cast into a design problem.
This study is but a first step in engineering multilevel systems that link neuro-dynamics, mechanics, and complex controllable gaits-coupling sensory information to motor coordination and movement that leads to behaviour. This work paves the way for the development of autonomous and adaptive artificial creatures able to process multiple sensory inputs and produce complex behaviours in distributed systems and may represent a path toward soft-robotic “embodied cognition”.