WATCH: Robot Navigates Tight Spaces Like a Cockroach

By Nathaniel Scharping | February 8, 2016 2:03 pm

The CRAM robot next to its cockroach counterpart. (Credit: Tom Libby/Kaushik Jayaram/Pauline Jennings/PolyPEDAL Lab UC Berkeley)

There’s no hiding from cockroaches. In addition to their ability to survive extreme cold, lack of air and even radioactivity, they are adept shape-shifters, contorting their shelled bodies to slip through cracks and crevices one-tenth of an inch tall — about the height of two stacked pennies.

Say what you will about cockroaches, but to engineers who design robots, these deft deformers are an inspiration.

Researchers at the University of California-Berkeley’s Poly-PEDAL lab built a palm-sized robot that mimics the movements of a cockroach in order to squeeze through confined spaces. The aptly named CRAM (Compressible Robot with Articulated Mechanisms) robot sports a tough, yet bendable, shell and flexible legs that splay to the sides under pressure. The combination of features allows CRAM to squeeze through spaces only half its body height.

Researchers say CRAM could serve as tool for rescue workers who search for survivors trapped in wreckage rife with cracks and crevices that pose barriers to rigid-bodied bots. They published their findings Monday in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

Cockroach Copycats

Cockroaches consume a significant amount of researchers’ attention at the Poly-PEDAL lab, which focuses on biomimicry research. In separate experiments, they’ve examined the way cockroach body motion affects their sensory organs and how they maneuver at high speeds. In June, some of the same researchers that developed CRAM built a robot that borrowed a different aspect of cockroach morphology: their exoskeleton. By adding a rounded dome, similar to a cockroach shell, to a crawling robot, they discovered it would naturally tip its body to fit between obstacles that had previously stymied it. The trick gave this tiny robot the ability to move in crowded spaces without any additional programming. Consumers can even buy a modified version of their cockroach-inspired robot.

Our innate disgust aside, cockroaches possess a host of potentially useful adaptions that have allowed them to extend their domain over almost the entire planet — including our pantries.

CATEGORIZED UNDER: Technology, top posts
MORE ABOUT: animals, robots
  • Uncle Al

    adding a rounded dome, similar to a cockroach shell” That is a pill bug, Armadillidiida woodlice, terrestrial crustaceans. Getting at lobster claws and crab legs requires steel tools.

    • Observational_Point

      For a number of years now, work has been proceeding in order to bring perfection to the crudely conceived idea of a transmission that would not only supply inverse reactive current for use in unilateral phase detractors, but would also be capable of automatically synchronizing cardinal grammeters. Such an instrument is the turbo encabulator.
      Now basically the only new principle involved is that instead of power being generated by the relative motion of conductors and fluxes, it is produced by the modial interaction of magneto-reluctance and capacitive diractance.

      The original machine had a base plate of pre-famulated amulite surmounted by a malleable logarithmic casing in
      such a way that the two spurving bearings were in a direct line with the panametric fan. The latter consisted simply of six hydrocoptic marzlevanes, so fitted to the ambifacient lunar waneshaft that side fumbling was effectively prevented.

      The main winding was of the normal lotus-o-delta type placed in panendermic semi-boloid slots of the stator, every seventh conductor being connected by a non-reversible tremie pipe to the differential girdle spring on the “up” end of the grammeters.

      The turbo-encabulator has now reached a high level of development, and it’s being successfully used in the operation of novertrunnions. Moreover, whenever a forescent skor motion is required, it may also be employed in conjunction with a drawn reciprocation dingle arm, to reduce sinusoidal repleneration.

  • polistra24

    Reminds me of an articulated bus or a train. Not exactly a new idea.


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