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 ")

Tesla Robotaxis Will Automatically Recharge Themselves
'Then it appeared to make up its mind, and trundled over to a wall socket...'- Stephen Barr, 1960.

Husqvarna Automower 435X AWD
'Gramp Stevens sat in a lawn chair, watching the mower at work...' - Clifford Simak, 1944.

Abundant Robotics Autonomous Apple Harvester Robot
'... little machines, that went from plant to plant... cutting off the ripe fruit.' Otfrid von Hanstein, 1935.

China Building Robot Wives
'Want a life-companion, a pleasant one?' - Alice W. Fuller, 1895.

 

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

Datagrid Model Generation Perfect For Eternal Cities Of Science Fiction
'... there was enough flexibility to allow for wide variation.

Kazahk Ironist Protester Arrested For Blank Sign Protest
'...a man carried a white rectangular sign, blank on both sides.'

Bitcoin Surges Again, To $7,000
'... electronic, private cash, unbacked by any government, untraceable, completely anonymous.'

China Develops Taste Testing Robots
'Install taste buds in the end of one tentacle...'

North Sea Stone Age Reconstruction And Philip K Dick
'Your Dip digs back into antiquity. Rome. Greece. Dust and old volumes.'

Tesla Robotaxis Will Automatically Recharge Themselves
'Then it appeared to make up its mind, and trundled over to a wall socket...'

New Lifelike Material Powered By Artificial Metabolism
'... The biological robots were not living creatures.'

Husqvarna Automower 435X AWD
'Gramp Stevens sat in a lawn chair, watching the mower at work...'

Elon Musk Foretells Tesla Sans Steering Wheel
'How about the steering wheel... I don't need one.'

Adversarial Patches Trick Computer Vision
'The surveillance cameras can all see it, but then they forget they’ve seen it.'

Amazon Warehouse Computer Can Fire People Now
'The system has already fired five people...'

BrainEx Restores Some Activity To Severed Pig Head
'... they placed the brain in a special solution, having all the properties of Nursing the brain cells.'

Yes, But Do Astrobees Have Lasers For Lightsaber Training?
'... Ancient weapons are no match for a good blaster at your side, kid.'

'Young Razorbacks Before Their Katanas Grow In'
'Twin robotic arms with gleaming three-foot sword blades unfolded from the forward hydraulic assemblies...'

A New Way To Run Into Things
'He made an adjustment, pointed the tube at the wall beside Etzwane, and projected a cone of light.'

'Metallic Wood' Strong Like Titanium, Floats In Water
'A metal... light as cork and stronger than steel...'

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.