NEWSBYTE: A team of researchers from the University of California, Berkeley, Harvard University, and Pennsylvania State University, have suggested that robot designers should take inspiration from cockroaches.
Cockroaches are renowned – if not hated – for surviving floods, fires, and even nuclear disasters. But while their indestructibility might be overstated, there’s no doubt that these sturdy creatures are natural selection superstars.
Now the academic team has suggested that these qualities could be replicated in the design of new robotic systems.
Tackling the problem head-on
As detailed in the researchers’ study, cockroaches have a knack of bumping into things and using the environment to their advantage:
“Instead of avoidance, animals can use their passive body shape and compliance to negotiate challenging environments. […] The cockroaches’ ‘terradynamically streamlined’, fusiform shape causes them to execute a novel roll manoeuvre – a form of natural parkour – facilitating rapid traversal of vertical gaps narrower than half their body width.”
In other words, rather than learn to avoid objects, robots should scale them, bump into them, adapt to them, and use them to their advantage.
The research, published in the Journal of the Royal Society Interface, shows how robots modelled on cockroaches could climb walls and navigate safely through complex environments and terrains.
A soft exoskeleton can act like a bumper, said the boffins, allowing for the kind of movement that could provide the foundation for the “next generation of running, climbing, and flying robots, where the use of the body can offload the demand for rapid sensing and actuation,” said the researchers.
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The study is timely, given the hysteria following the release of yet another eerie clip from Boston Dynamics (see below). But if you thought a robot dog capable of opening doors was creepy, just wait until the robot cockroaches start climbing the walls.