A new robot centipede could help assist search and rescue missions and even explore other planets.
Researchers were inspired by the flexible movement of animals such as centipedes and modeled the creation with these insects in mind, according to the Journal Soft Robotics..
The robot is made up of six segments, with two legs connected to each one.
Using an adjustable screw, the flexibility of the couplings, which connect each part of the machine together, can be modified with motors as it walks.
Increasing the flexibility of the joints like this causes “pitchfork bifurcation”, where straight walking becomes unstable.
As it becomes unstable, the robot transitions to walking in a curved pattern, either to the right or to the left, giving it a wider range of movement.
Normally, engineers would try to avoid creating instabilities, but making controlled use of them like this can increase the range of movement.
After testing the robot’s ability to reach specific locations they found that it could navigate its way like a centipede, taking curved paths toward targets.
As this approach does not directly steer the movement of the body axis, but rather controls the flexibility, it can also greatly reduce both the computational complexity and the energy requirements.
This newfound movement allows the robot to be able to walk along uneven and difficult terrains, meaning it could help on search and rescue missions and even the exploration of other planets.
Study author Professor Shinya Aoi, of Osaka University in Japan, said: “We were inspired by the ability of certain extremely agile insects that allows them to control the dynamic instability in their own motion to induce quick movement changes.”
Most animals on Earth have evolved to have a high degree of mobility over a wide range of environments.
However, engineers who have attempted to replicate this approach have often found that legged robots are very fragile.
The breakdown of even one leg thanks to repeated stress can severely limit the ability of these robots to function.
Also controlling many joints, so the robot can get around complex environments requires a lot of computer power.
Now, with this new biomimetic “myriapod” robot they have overcome this hurdle.
Dr. Mau Adachi, a researcher from the university and co-author of the study, added: “We can foresee applications in a wide variety of scenarios, such as search and rescue, working in hazardous environments or exploration on other planets.”
Future versions may include additional segments and control mechanisms.
Produced in association with SWNS Talker
Edited by Alberto Arellano and Jessi Rexroad Shull