Roboticists have developed cockroach-inspired robots which can use their special body shape, especially their characteristic round shells, for maneuvering through obstacles. It is believed that this ability of the new robots can make them useful in military reconnaissance, rescue missions and on farms.

In the past, we have seen many research teams designing robots boasting the ability of avoiding obstacles. Those bots avoid obstacles by eluding stumbling blocks.

The robots begin by mapping out their surroundings using sensors and then use powerful computers for preparing a plan to move without colliding with the obstacles.

The study’s lead author Chen Li, a physicist from the Berkeley campus of University of California, said this method of avoiding obstacles has proven to be extremely successful when used in Google’s self-driving car. However, according to him, the method has certain limitations.

Li said that if the terrain becomes heavily cluttered and the gaps become smaller than or as big as the size of a robot, it might fail to plan a clear path through which it can move without hitting the obstacles.

The other limitation of this method of avoiding obstacles is that it requires sophisticated computers and sensors; often such units turn out to be too heavy or large for small bots to move around with.

So, Li and his team aimed at designing robots that instead of avoiding obstacles will traverse them. They took inspiration from discoid cockroaches when designing these special robots. Discoid cockroaches are around 4.9 cm or 2 inches long and are mostly found in floors of the tropical rainforests.

When moving around the forest, these creatures keep on encountering clutter of different kinds, for instance, shrubs, leaves, grass, tree trunks, mushrooms etc.

Using multiple high-speed cameras, the scientists analyzed the technique adopted by these tiny cockroaches for moving through obstacles. They found that the insects took around 3 seconds for overcoming the artificially placed obstacle courses.

Roboticists have developed cockroach-inspired robots which can use their special body shape, especially their characteristic round shells, for maneuvering through obstacles. It is believed that this ability of the new robots can make them useful in military reconnaissance, rescue missions and on farms.

In the past, we have seen many research teams designing robots boasting the ability of avoiding obstacles. Those bots avoid obstacles by eluding stumbling blocks.

The robots begin by mapping out their surroundings using sensors and then use powerful computers for preparing a plan to move without colliding with the obstacles.

Robot

The study’s lead author Chen Li, a physicist from the Berkeley campus of University of California, said this method of avoiding obstacles has proven to be extremely successful when used in Google’s self-driving car. However, according to him, the method has certain limitations.

Li said that if the terrain becomes heavily cluttered and the gaps become smaller than or as big as the size of a robot, it might fail to plan a clear path through which it can move without hitting the obstacles.

The other limitation of this method of avoiding obstacles is that it requires sophisticated computers and sensors; often such units turn out to be too heavy or large for small bots to move around with.

So, Li and his team aimed at designing robots that instead of avoiding obstacles will traverse them. They took inspiration from discoid cockroaches when designing these special robots. Discoid cockroaches are around 4.9 cm or 2 inches long and are mostly found in floors of the tropical rainforests.

When moving around the forest, these creatures keep on encountering clutter of different kinds, for instance, shrubs, leaves, grass, tree trunks, mushrooms etc.

Using multiple high-speed cameras, the scientists analyzed the technique adopted by these tiny cockroaches for moving through obstacles. They found that the insects took around 3 seconds for overcoming the artificially placed obstacle courses.

During the study, the researchers also found the less round the creatures would be, the more difficult it will become for them to overcome the obstacles. Based on this finding, they added discoid cockroach-inspired round shells onto the roach-boats.

You can read the entire study in the journal called Bioinspiration & Biomimetics. The paper was published there on June 23.

VIAEngadget
SOURCEIOP Science
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