A six-legged robot that is capable of moving much faster as compared to other robots has been created by an international team of engineers. The researchers with the University of Lausanne and Swiss Federal Institute of Technology, UNIL and EPFL, looked to the organic to create the inorganic, similar to other engineering teams.
The majority of insects keep three legs on the ground while walking, that is, they walk with a tripod gait. However, the researchers speculated that another kind of movement may perhaps be more efficient.
The co-lead and corresponding author of the study, Pavan Ramdya told in a press release; “We wanted to determine why insects use a tripod gait and identify whether it is, indeed, the fastest way for six-legged animals and robots to walk.”
The frequently-studied Drosophila melanogaster aka the “common fruit fly” is the insect that motivated this innovative research. Several computer simulations were conducted by the team that generated an evolution-based algorithm to optimize the possible gaits. The slowest gaits were rejected by the algorithm and the fastest was identified. It was revealed by the simulations (without the need for adhesiveness) that insect-inspired legs moved fastest in a “bipod” gait.
Ramdya explained; “Our findings support the idea that insects use a tripod gait to most effectively walk on surfaces in three dimensions and because their legs have adhesive properties. This confirms a long-standing biological hypothesis. Ground robots should therefore break free from only using the tripod gait.”
This research benefits both the robotics and biologists. The researchers are capable of doing the biological research on insects by studying the effects of adhesion in the flies.
Small polymer booties are placed by them on the flies’ legs. This covered the adhesive pads. (Just take a second to visualize flies wearing itty-bitty rain boots.) It was observed by the researchers that the flies naturally adapted to a more efficient type of movement without the need to adhere to a surface.
Robin Thandiackal, a co-lead author of the study, said:
“This result shows that, unlike most robots, animals can adapt to find new ways of walking under new circumstances.”
He talked about the important relations between natural sciences and robotics; “There is a natural dialogue between robotics and biology: Many robot designers are inspired by nature and biologists can use robots to better understand the behavior of animal species. We believe that our work represents an important contribution to the study of animal and robotic locomotion.”
In order to read the full report, check out “Nature Communications”.