Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations

Roaches inspire robotics: Researchers use common cockroach to fine-tune robots of the future

Date:
February 7, 2011
Source:
American Friends of Tel Aviv University
Summary:
The study of cockroaches, locusts, and caterpillars is inspiring new frontiers in advanced robotics. New research delves deep into the neurological functioning of the cockroach, giving engineers the information they need to design more compact, versatile and efficient robots -- for both earthbound missions and those in outer space.

Locusts like these in Eilat, Israel, are inspiring future robotic advances.
Credit: Photo by Prof. Amir Ayali

Ask anyone who has ever tried to squash a skittering cockroach -- they're masters of quick and precise movement. Now Tel Aviv University is using their maddening locomotive skills to improve robotic technology too.

Related Articles


Prof. Amir Ayali of Tel Aviv University's Department of Zoology says the study of cockroaches has already inspired advanced robotics. Robots have long been based on these six-legged houseguests, whose nervous system is relatively straightforward and easy to study. But until now, walking machines based on the cockroach's movement have been influenced by outside observations and mainly imitate the insect's appearance, not its internal mechanics.

He and his fellow researchers are delving deeper into the neurological functioning of the cockroach. This, he says, will give engineers the information they need to design robots with a more compact build and greater efficiency in terms of energy, time, robustness and rigidity. Such superior robotics can be even used to explore new terrain in outer space.

This research was recently presented at the International Neuroethology conference in Spain as well as the Israeli Neuroscience Meeting in December.

Roach control systems as the ideal model

According to Prof. Ayali, it's clear why robotics have been inspired by these unsavory insects. A cockroach is supported by at least three legs at all times during movement, which provides great stability. "Not only do cockroaches arguably exhibit one of the most stable ways to walk, called a tripod gate," he explains, "but they move equally quickly on every kind of terrain. Their speed and stability is almost too good to be true."

In their lab, Prof. Ayali and his fellow researchers are conducting a number of tests to uncover the mysteries of the cockroach's nervous system, studying how sensory feedback from one leg is translated to the coordination of all the other legs. Their analysis of the contribution of each leg is shared with collaborating scientists at Princeton University, who use the information to construct models and simulations of insect locomotion.

Insects, says Prof. Ayali, utilize information from the environment around them to determine how they will move. Sensors give them data about the terrain they are encountering and how they should approach it. How this information transfers to the insect's legs is central to understanding how to mimic their locomotion.

An army of robotic insects

Cockroaches are not the only insects that have captured the scientific imagination. Projects that highlight both the flight of the locust and the crawling of the soft-bodied caterpillar are also underway.

Locusts are amazing flyers, Prof. Ayali notes. Scientists are studying both their aerodynamic build and their energy metabolism for long-distance flights. Recordings of their nervous systems and simultaneous video tracking to observe the movement of their wings during flight can be expected to lead to better technology for miniscule flying robots.

As for caterpillars, engineers are trying to recreate in soft-bodied robots what they call the creatures "endless degrees of freedom of movement." "Caterpillars are not confined by a stiff structure -- they have no rigid skeletons," says Prof. Ayali. "This is exactly what makes them unique."


Story Source:

The above story is based on materials provided by American Friends of Tel Aviv University. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.


Cite This Page:

American Friends of Tel Aviv University. "Roaches inspire robotics: Researchers use common cockroach to fine-tune robots of the future." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 7 February 2011. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2011/02/110207101022.htm>.
American Friends of Tel Aviv University. (2011, February 7). Roaches inspire robotics: Researchers use common cockroach to fine-tune robots of the future. ScienceDaily. Retrieved March 5, 2015 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2011/02/110207101022.htm
American Friends of Tel Aviv University. "Roaches inspire robotics: Researchers use common cockroach to fine-tune robots of the future." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2011/02/110207101022.htm (accessed March 5, 2015).

Share This


More From ScienceDaily



More Plants & Animals News

Thursday, March 5, 2015

Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations


Featured Videos

from AP, Reuters, AFP, and other news services

Praying Mantis Looks Long Before It Leaps

Praying Mantis Looks Long Before It Leaps

Reuters - Innovations Video Online (Mar. 5, 2015) Slowed-down footage of the leaps of praying mantises show the insect&apos;s extraordinary precision, say researchers. Video provided by Reuters
Powered by NewsLook.com
Octopus Grabs Camera and Turns It Around On Photographer

Octopus Grabs Camera and Turns It Around On Photographer

Buzz60 (Mar. 5, 2015) A photographer got the shot of a lifetime, or rather an octopus did, when it grabbed the camera and turned it around to take an amazing picture of the photographer. Jen Markham (@jenmarkham) has the story. Video provided by Buzz60
Powered by NewsLook.com
Ringling Bros. Eliminating Elephant Acts

Ringling Bros. Eliminating Elephant Acts

AP (Mar. 5, 2015) The Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Circus is ending its iconic elephant acts. The circus&apos; parent company, Feld Entertainment, told the AP exclusively that the acts will be phased out by 2018 over growing public concern about the animals. (March 5) Video provided by AP
Powered by NewsLook.com
Raw: Tourists Visit Rare Grey Whales in Mexico

Raw: Tourists Visit Rare Grey Whales in Mexico

AP (Mar. 4, 2015) Once nearly extinct, grey whales now migrate in their thousands to Mexico&apos;s Vizcaino reserve in Baja California, in search of warmer waters to mate and give birth. Tourists flock to the reserve to see the whales, measuring up to 49 feet long. (March 4) Video provided by AP
Powered by NewsLook.com

Search ScienceDaily

Number of stories in archives: 140,361

Find with keyword(s):
Enter a keyword or phrase to search ScienceDaily for related topics and research stories.

Save/Print:
Share:

Breaking News:

Strange & Offbeat Stories


Plants & Animals

Earth & Climate

Fossils & Ruins

In Other News

... from NewsDaily.com

Science News

Health News

Environment News

Technology News



Save/Print:
Share:

Free Subscriptions


Get the latest science news with ScienceDaily's free email newsletters, updated daily and weekly. Or view hourly updated newsfeeds in your RSS reader:

Get Social & Mobile


Keep up to date with the latest news from ScienceDaily via social networks and mobile apps:

Have Feedback?


Tell us what you think of ScienceDaily -- we welcome both positive and negative comments. Have any problems using the site? Questions?
Mobile: iPhone Android Web
Follow: Facebook Twitter Google+
Subscribe: RSS Feeds Email Newsletters
Latest Headlines Health & Medicine Mind & Brain Space & Time Matter & Energy Computers & Math Plants & Animals Earth & Climate Fossils & Ruins