Researchers at Carnegie Mellon University (CMU), the Georgia Institute of Technology (Georgia Tech), and Zoo Atlanta analyzed the motions of sidewinder rattlesnakes and tested their observations on CMU's snake robots.
The researchers showed how the complex motion of a sidewinder can be described in terms of vertical and horizontal body waves, and how changing the phase and amplitude of the waves enables snakes to achieve exceptional maneuverability.
"This makes our modular robots much more valuable as tools for urban search-and-rescue tasks, power plant inspections, and even archeological exploration," says CMU professor Howie Choset.
The researchers observed sidewinders making gradual changes in direction by altering the horizontal wave while keeping the vertical wave constant. They also found making a large phase shift in the vertical wave enabled the snake to make a sharp turn in the opposite direction. The researchers applied these controls to the robot, which enabled it to replicate the turns of the snake.
"By looking for insights in nature, we were able to dramatically improve the control and maneuverability of the robot, while at the same time using the robot as a tool to test the theorized control mechanisms of biological sidewinders," says Georgia Tech researcher Henry Astley.
From Carnegie Mellon News (PA)
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