VelociRoACH Insect Robots Cooperate

Frankly, the last thing that most of us want to hear is that insects are cooperating to do things like climb stairs. Will there be no end to the roboticists fascination with biomimicry? Apparently not.


(Step Climbing Cooperation Primitives for Legged Robots with a Reversible Connection)

Small bio-inspired robots have the potential to improve the effectiveness of robot-assisted search and rescue in disaster scenarios (e.g. collapsed buildings). Small-scale robots can navigate through narrow spaces in a collapsed building that would be otherwise inaccessible. Furthermore, these robots can be produced cheaply and quickly through the scaled Smart Composite Microstructures (SCM) process [1]. The maneuverability and ease of manufacture of SCM robots allows them to be deployed in large numbers (10-100 units). Deploying many capable and low-cost robots throughout the disaster area will help to localize sites that are viable entry points for rescuers, accelerating the discovery and rescue of survivors.

As a result, climbing over step obstacles that are larger than the robot’s length scale poses a great challenge for an individual robot. We posit that through multi-robot physical cooperation, small legged robots can approach the locomotion capabilities of animals, such as Australian jumping ants, which are shown cooperatively traversing complex terrain in the [above] video.

The goal of this paper is to demonstrate that simple connections between underactuated legged robots can enable mobility over tall obstacles relative to their size, with no specialized attachment mechanism required.

The multiple robot team in Isaac Asimov's 1944 story Catch That Rabbit were also able to synchronize their movements, taking their lead from the leader robot, Dave:

There was a marching formation now, and in their own dim body light, the rough-hewn walls of the mine tunnel swam past noiselessly, checkered with misty erratic blobs of shadow. They marched in unison, seven of them, with Dave at the head. They wheeled and turned in macabre simultaneity; and melted through changes of formation with the weird ease of chorus dancers in Lunar Bowl...

Fans of the 1995 novel The Diamond Age, by Neal Stephenson, may recall a variety of references to tiny nanobots (very small robots) that cooperate on various tasks. They range from mites, tiny cleaning machines, to swarms of airborne nanomachines that work together to form a dog pod grid, a defensive formation to protect suburban enclaves.

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