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Can a Cockroach Teach a Robot How to Scurry Across Rugged Terrain?

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The roaches used in the study are a Central American species with bodies about 2 inches long.

Johns Hopkins University researchers are working to build robots with cockroach-inspired behavior.

Credit: Will Kirk/JHU

Researchers at Johns Hopkins University (JHU) aim to build robots with cockroach-inspired behavior, by focusing on movement science at the convergence of biology, robotics, and physics.

They are studying cockroach dynamics and travel tactics with the goal of mimicking them in small robots so the machines can surmount obstacles.

One team has built a multi-legged robot designed to replicate the roach's running patterns, adding a "tail" so the machines can reproduce body positions that help the insects get past bumps and gaps on the lab track. The researchers found this modification increased the largest gap size that the robot could travel by 50% and the largest bump size it could traverse by 75%.

JHU professor Chen Li says the next stage will be determining whether his team's findings also are applicable to movement through more randomly scattered terrain such as rubble from a demolished building.

From Johns Hopkins University
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