Cockroach teach Robot to cross Rugged Terrain

  • Researchers have put these unwanted bugs to work.Researchers have thought that crucial locomotion of insects might  help future robotic vehicles traverse treacherous terrain.
  • Picture the aftermath of an earthquake or the cluttered, unexplored surface of another planet. Human teams might hesitate to enter such hazard-strewn regions. For this Researchers want to build robots that behave more like cockroaches.
  • It focuses on movement science at the interface of biology, robotics and physics.
  • Cockroaches scurry along tracks laden with two types of obstacles: large “bumps” and equally large “gaps.” These mimic the holes and barriers that the roaches might have encountered in their rugged natural habitat.
  • The bugs contort their heads, torsos and legs until they find a way to get themselves over or across the obstacles in order to remain on course.
  • High-speed cameras capture the body and leg motions used by these roaches, a Central American species with bodies about 2 inches long.
  • These videos can later be slowed down to help the researchers learn the precise travel tactics that small robots could use to surmount the same type of obstacles.
  • The roaches, native to a rainforest region highly cluttered with vegetation, need these skills.
  • Where they live, you have all sorts of stuff around you, like dense vegetation or fallen leaves or branches or roots.Wherever they go, they run into these obstacles. Researchers are trying to understand the principles of how they go through such a complex terrain, and we hope to then transfer those principles to advanced robots.
  • Some of these roach-inspired improvements have already materialized. Researchers team has constructed a multi-legged robot to replicate the insect’s running patterns.
  • After carefully reviewing their bug videos to discover the underlying physics principles, the researchers added a “tail” to help the robots replicate body positions that helped the real roaches get past the large bumps and gaps on the lab track.
  • This simple change increased the largest gap size that the robot could traverse by 50 percent and the largest bump size it could traverse by 75 percent.
  • These are just beginning to understand how these critters move through a cluttered 3-D terrain where you have obstacles that are larger than or comparable to the animal or robot’s size.
  • The next step will be to determine whether their findings will also apply to movement through more randomly scattered terrain such as rubble from a demolished building.


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