Cockroaches are fascinating. They originated 280 million years ago, they can survive being submerged underwater for 30 minutes, and they can even live for seven days without their head. But thanks to researchers from Johns Hopkins University, cockroaches are going to help… robots?
According to ZME Science, researchers are using cockroaches to inspire the future of robotics through movement.
The research team, led by Sean Gart, a postdoctoral fellow at Johns Hopkins, have begun filming cockroaches maneuvering through obstacle courses with high-speed cameras. One the footage was captured, it was then analyzed and adapted for a cockroach-like robot to imitate the recorded movement. These robots can potentially be used during search and rescue missions following natural disasters.
“Where they live, you have all sorts of stuff around you, like dense vegetation or fallen leaves or branches or roots,” said Chen Li, an assistant professor of mechanical engineering and senior author of the paper published in Bioinspiration and Biomimetics. “Wherever they go, they run into these obstacles. We’re 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.”
Since cockroaches use their heads like a bumper, they often ram head-first into small structures or walls and, depending on the severity of the impact, can change their direction by using the momentum of the collision. They can even make a full flip in under 75 microseconds.
The palm-sized six-legged robots could also be used to explore uncharted territories.
“We 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,” Li added.