Cockroaches inspire creation of sprinting robotsDecember 29th, 2009 - 2:16 pm ICT by IANS
Washington, Dec 29 (IANS) A bio-engineering marvel like the cockroach is inspiring researchers to build robots capable of sprinting effortlessly over rough terrain.
“Humans can run, but frankly our capabilities are nothing compared to what insects and some other animals can do,” said John Schmitt, assistant professor at the Oregon State University (OSU) School of Mechanical Engineering, who led the project.
“Cockroaches are incredible. They can run fast, turn on a dime, move easily over rough terrain, and react to perturbations faster than a nerve impulse can travel,” Schmitt said.
If successful, Schmitt said, running robots could serve valuable roles in difficult jobs, such as military operations, law enforcement or space exploration.
Within certain limitations, Schmitt said, cockroaches don’t even have to think about running - they just do it, with muscle action that is instinctive and doesn’t require reflex control.
OSU researchers are trying to identify some of the basic biological and mechanical principles that allow certain animals to run so well and effortlessly.
A guinea hen, for instance, can change the length and angle of its spring-like legs to almost automatically adjust to an unexpected change in a ground surface as much as 40 percent of its hip height.
That would be like a human running at full speed, stepping into a 16-inch-deep hole and never missing a beat.
In a computer model, the researchers have created a concept that would allow a running robot to recover from a change in ground surface almost as well as a guinea hen.
They are studying how the interplay of concepts such as energy storage and expenditure, sensor and feedback requirements, and leg angles can produce recovery from such perturbations, said an OSU release.
And some day, a robot - instead of a human - might be used to run into a dangerous area, check things out and report back for further instructions.
The findings were published in Bioinspiration and Biomimetics.
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Tags: bio engineering, cockroach, cockroaches, computer model, dangerous area, deep hole, energy storage, full speed, ground surface, guinea hen, john schmitt, mechanical principles, muscle action, nerve impulse, oregon state university, perturbations, reflex control, rough terrain, space exploration, unexpected change