Robot Design Copies Sleek Roach Shell
In robot science, even tiny inventions can change the shape of things. A simple seek-and-find type of robot has been fitted with one small but powerful addition to overcome obstacles in its path.
Clutter is the enemy of robots, because each new and different obstacle must be overcome with a different feature. Sensors are often used in complex ways on robot bodies to keep the artificially intelligent creature moving toward its goal, without being derailed by something as simple as a steep hill or drop of water.
Most robots are designed to avoid obstacles by sensing their proximity and moving around them. But a team at Berkeley, led by postdoctoral researcher Chen Li, has developed a robot that can scamper between obstacles.
The breakthrough in design came after observing a common roach, species Blaberus discoidalis, make its way through an obstacle course resembling tightly crowded sticks of grass. Researchers then ran their rectangular-bodied robot through the same course, and noted how it got hung up on the pillars, or became stuck, or even collided with the pseudo-grass.
A new robot with streamlined “roach” shell was built, and made its way much like the real thing through the course, traversing and rolling through the fake grass pillars rather than bumping into them.