Cells need to process multifaceted external cues to steer their dynamic behavior. To efficiently perform this task, cells implement several exploratory mechanisms to actively sample their environment. In particular, cells can use exploratory actin-based cell protrusions and contractions to engage and squeeze the environment and to actively probe its chemical and mechanical properties. Multiple excitable signal networks were identified that can generate local activity pulses to control these exploratory processes. Such excitable signal networks offer particularly efficient mechanisms to process chemical or mechanical signals to steer dynamic cell behavior, such as directional migration, tissue morphogenesis and cell fate decisions.