Photo Credit: William Sacco, Yale University
Cockroaches are amazing. No matter how disgusting you might think they are, they should be considered one of the 7 wonders of the living world, if there were such a thing. They've been an inspiration in many ways to scientists working in the field of biomimicry, and the latest example of that inspiration is displayed in the grip of a mechanical hand, which mimics the flexible, spring-like movement and dexterity of cockroach legs. Inside Science reports that Robert D. Howe, head of Harvard's BioRobotics Laboratory, worked with Aaron Dollar, assistant professor of engineering at Yale, to develop the new hand. The two built on previous research by University of California, Berkeley professor Robert Full on how cockroaches move across surfaces, and who in the late 1980s built a new eight-legged robot that moved faster and more easily than any robot built to date. The duo worked at trying to make similarly spring-like fingers so that their robotic hand would be flexible enough to "glide along objects until it wrapped around them, just like a human hand lifting a coffee cup."
After much work, they've devised a simple hand that is able to grasp a variety of objects, and which could be the first step toward limbs for household service robots or even prosthetic limbs. Already, Dollar is working on a version of a light-weight hand with an opposable thumb, and honing the hand so it can grasp smaller items like keys and cutlery.
Imagine, amputees with a new hand as dexterous and functional as their original hand. And all thanks to one of the most infamous wonder-bugs on the planet.
You can check out the full research from the project on International Journal of Robotics Research.
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