Photo via rockyjvec via Flickr CC
It's generally agreed that cockroaches are a feat of evolution, and they certainly move incredibly well on their six legs. Which is why researchers at Oregon State University are using them as a source of inspiration for the world's first legged robot to be able to run easily over rough terrain. But it isn't just the capability of getting over rocky areas or moving quickly that scientists want to mimic - it's also a cockroach's brainless ability to zip from here to there that the researchers are after. Science Daily reports, "The latest findings -- just published in the professional journal Bioinspiration and Biomimetics -- outline how animals use their legs to manage energy storage and expenditure, and why this is so important for running stability." According to John Schmitt, an assistant professor in the School of Mechanical, Industrial and Manufacturing Engineering at OSU., cockroaches don't have to think about running, instead they mostly use instinctive muscle action that doesn't require reflex control. It's this ability that, in part, the researchers are trying to put into new robots in order to get them moving faster but without the enormous use of energy and computing power they require.
"If we ever develop robots that can really run over rough ground, they can't afford to use so much of their computing abilities and energy demand to accomplish it," Schmitt said. "A cockroach doesn't think much about running, it just runs. And it only slows down about 20 percent when going over blocks that are three times higher than its hips. That's just remarkable, and an indication that their stability has to do with how they are built, rather than how they react."
With these abilities, it seems only logical that cockroaches would be the biomimetic inspiration for running robots that can get over difficult landscapes. Researchers think that they could be solutions for military operations, law enforcement, space exploration, or even apply the technology as solutions for amputees.
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