Researchers have been examining the diverse behaviours of caterpillars to find solutions for the new generation of search and rescue soft robots.
Despite their extreme flexibility and adaptability, current soft-bodied robots are often limited by their slow speed, leading the researchers to turn to terrestrial soft-bodied animals for inspiration.
Some caterpillars have the extraordinary ability to rapidly curl themselves into a wheel and propel themselves away from predators. This highly dynamic process, called ballistic rolling, is one of the fastest wheeling behaviours in nature.
Researchers from Tufts University, Massachusetts, saw this as an opportunity to design a robot that mimics this behaviour of caterpillars and to develop a better understanding of the mechanics behind ballistic rolling.
The study, published today, Wednesday 27 April, in IOP Publishing's journal Bioinspiration & Biomimetics, also includes a video of both the caterpillar and robot in action and can be found at http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wZe9qWi-LUo.
To simulate the movement of a caterpillar, the researchers designed a 10cm long soft-bodied robot, called GoQBot, made out of silicone rubber and actuated by embedded shape memory alloy coils. It was named GoQBot as it forms a "Q" shape before rolling away at over half a meter per second.
The GoQBot was designed to specifically replicate the functional morphologies of a caterpillar, and was fitted with 5 infrared emitters along its side to allow motion tracking using one of the latest high speed 3D tracking systems. Simultaneously, a force plate measured the detailed ground forces as the robot pushed off into a ballistic roll.
In order to change its body conformation so quickly, in less than 100 ms, GoQBot benefits from a significant degree of mechanical coordination in ballistic rolling. Researchers believe
|Contact: Joe Winters|
Institute of Physics