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Sea turtles inspire beach-walking robot
Date:4/24/2013

A sea turtle-inspired robot has been created by a group of researchers in the US to help understand the mechanics of walking and crawling on complex surfaces.

Dubbed "Flipperbot", the robot has been presented today, 24 April, in IOP Publishing's journal Bioinspiration and Biomimetics, and was designed to test how real-life organisms, such as seals, sea turtles and mudskippers use flippers and fins to move on surfaces such as sand.

The 19 cm-long robot was built by Nicole Mazouchova, working in Professor Daniel Goldman's Complex Rheology and Biomechanics (CRAB) Lab at the Georgia Institute of Technology, and Dr Paul Umbanhowar from Northwestern University.

It weighs just 790 g and is not propelled by legs or wheels but instead crawls using two flipper-like front limbs, spanning 40 cm. Each limb is driven by small servo motors and has a thin, lightweight flipper at its end. During the study the robot was tested on a 122 cm-long bed of poppy seeds and was recorded using a high-speed digital camera.

A video of Flipperbot in action can be viewed here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=s0_elE74Mdc.

The researchers believe that the improved understanding of flipper-based locomotion gained from their study could inspire the design of future multi-terrain robots that can swim and walk effectively using the same appendages.

Furthermore, the findings from this study could possibly be used to shed light on the evolutionary adaptations of structures such as fins or flippers when fish-like animals moved from aquatic to terrestrial environments several hundred million years ago.

Professor Daniel Goldman and his group have previously studied the high walking performance of hatchling sea turtles, and the goal of this new study was to use a robot to delve deeper into the mechanics of flipper-based movement on land.

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Contact: Michael Bishop
michael.bishop@iop.org
01-179-301-032
Institute of Physics
Source:Eurekalert

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