Robots Race Ahead - On Cockroach Legs

Roboticists are constantly trying to improve the stability of bipedal robots. At the University of Michigan, they are studying an unlikely source of graceful recovery when shoved off-balance - the cockroach.


(Cockroaches help robots stay balanced)

In experiments, the roaches were able to maintain their footing mechanically—using their momentum and the spring-like architecture of their legs, rather than neurologically, relying on impulses sent from their central nervous system to their muscles.

"The response time we observed is more than three times longer than you'd expect," said Shai Revzen, an assistant professor of electrical engineering and computer science, as well as ecology and evolutionary biology, at the University of Michigan. Revzen is the lead author of a paper on the findings published online in Biological Cybernetics. It will appear in a forthcoming print edition.

"What we see is that the animals' nervous system is working at a substantial delay," he said. "It could potentially act a lot sooner, within about a thirtieth of a second, but instead, it kicks in after about a step and a half or two steps—about a tenth of a second. For some reason, the nervous system is waiting and seeing how it shapes out."

To arrive at their findings, the researchers sent 15 cockroaches (one-by-one, in 41 trials) running across a small bridge onto a placemat-sized cart on wheels. The cart was attached to an elastic cord that was pulled tight like a loaded slingshot and held in place with a strong magnet on the other side. Once a roach was about a body length onto the cart, the researchers released the magnet, sending the cart hurling sideways. The force was equivalent to a sumo wrestler hitting a jogger with a flying tackle, said Revzen, adding that cockroaches are much more stable than humans.

To gather detailed information about the roaches' gait, the researchers utilized a technique Revzen developed several years ago called kinematic phase analysis. It involves using a high-speed camera to constantly measure the position of each of the insects' six feet as well as the ends of its body. A computer program then merges the continuous data from all these points into an accurate estimate of where the roach is in its gait cycle at all times. The approach gives scientists a more detailed picture than just measuring the timing of footfalls—a common metric used today to study gait.

SF writers have long relied on insect biomimicry for robotic models; see the spider robots (with video) from Michael Crichton's 1985 movie Runaway for a taste.

You might compare the efforts of UM's team with these biologically accurate robot walking legs (with video) based on human, not roach, anatomy. See also the Phasma insect robot video that shows a properly scuttling insectile gait robot.

From the University of Michigan.

Scroll down for more stories in the same category. (Story submitted 3/17/2013)

Follow this kind of news @Technovelgy.

| Email | RSS | Blog It | Stumble | del.icio.us | Digg | Reddit |

Would you like to contribute a story tip? It's easy:
Get the URL of the story, and the related sf author, and add it here.

Comment/Join discussion ( 1 )

Related News Stories - (" Robotics ")

PoseiDrone Tentacled Undersea Robot Like HG Wells'
'Its motion was so swift, complex, and perfect that at first I did not see it as a machine...'- HG Wells, 1898.

Robot With Broken Leg Learns To Walk Again
Robots that learn to walk again are now on the march.

World's First Android Newscaster (Video)
'The autonomic TV interviewer, camera in its hand, blocked his path.'- Philip K. Dick, 1965.

Japan Invites Robot Athletes To Gather For 2020 Olympics
It's time we started to get rid of that distinction between metal and flesh, and IC and neuron, don't you think?

 

Google
  Web TechNovelgy.com   

Technovelgy (that's tech-novel-gee!) is devoted to the creative science inventions and ideas of sf authors. Look for the Invention Category that interests you, the Glossary, the Invention Timeline, or see what's New.

 

 

 

 

 

Current News

Survival Seed Vault Low Cost Life Bank
'They existed in the Life Bank, as did virtually every plant...'

PoseiDrone Tentacled Undersea Robot Like HG Wells'
'Its motion was so swift, complex, and perfect that at first I did not see it as a machine...'

Bionic Hand Provides 'Lifelike' Sensations, Like Luke Skywalker's
'Take care, sir.'

Man-Made Space Leaf Creates Oxygen From Water And Light
'What better purifying machine is there than... grass?'

Robot With Broken Leg Learns To Walk Again
Robots that learn to walk again are now on the march.

World's First Android Newscaster (Video)
'The autonomic TV interviewer, camera in its hand, blocked his path.'

Japan Invites Robot Athletes To Gather For 2020 Olympics
It's time we started to get rid of that distinction between metal and flesh, and IC and neuron, don't you think?

CV Dazzle Anti-Surveillance Make-Up
Let's hear it for the vague blur!

LG Display's 18 Inch Flexible OLED Panel Is Awesomely Cool
'...a wide sheet of clear material suddenly flared with light and swirling color.'

Tiniest Microphone Inspired By Fly
'Transmitting to its manipulator, far away now, all that it heard through its ear microphones...'

NASA's Highway In The Sky For Drones
Traffic is everywhere.

Palcohol Powdered Alcohol - Try Or Ban?
'I had a small can of powdered alcohol disguised as tooth powder...'

pd.id Personal Drink ID Device Like Dune 'Poison Snooper'
'The jeweled hands clutching drinks (and the unobtrusive inspections with tiny remote-cast snoopers)...'

Monsieur Bartending Robot
'He poured the liquids into his maw...'

Cities Detect Gunfire Acoustics With ShotSpotter
'Sound trackers on the roof...'

Cruise Automation's 'Highway Autopilot' For $10K
'It cut her out of the stream of vehicles and reduced the speed of her car...'

More SF in the News Stories

More Beyond Technovelgy science news stories

Home | Glossary | Invention Timeline | Category | New | Contact Us | FAQ | Advertise |
Technovelgy.com - where science meets fiction™

Copyright© Technovelgy LLC; all rights reserved.