In a study published in Nature Communications, researchers detailed a faster and more efficient gait. Inspired by the outstanding capabilities of insects, they created a six-legged robots walking on flat ground.
Six-legged Robot Runs Faster than an Insect
Researchers at EPFL and UNIL have collaborated to create new gaits used by real insects since they have adhesive pads to walk in three dimensions. This discovery could provide novel approaches for roboticists, and could as well be a stable groundwork for biologists.
Insects run fast using a three-legged, or “tripod” gait where they have three legs on the ground at all times. Because of this, the researchers thought of acquiring this feature to the robot's architecture.
The experts revealed that there is in fact a faster way for robots to locomote on flat ground, provided they don’t have the adhesive pads used by insects to climb walls and ceilings. For the tests, they ran computer simulations with host Drosophila melanogaster, which is one of the most commonly studied insects in biology.
“We wanted to determine why insects use a tripod gait and identify whether it is, indeed, the fastest way for six-legged animals and robots to walk,” Pavan Ramdya, co-lead and corresponding author of the study told EPFL.
The experts utilized an evolutionary-like algorithm to optimize the walking speed of a simulated insect model, and tested various combinations. They also observed real insects.
The researchers placed polymer drops on the flies’ legs to cover their claws and adhesive pads to be able to see if leg adhesion also plays a role in the walking coordination of real flies. Results showed that the flies quickly began to use bipod-like leg coordination similar to the one discovered in the simulation.
"This result shows that, unlike most robots, animals can adapt to find new ways of walking under new circumstances,” said Robin Thandiackal, a co-lead author of the study in a statement.
He added: “There is a natural dialogue between robotics and biology: Many robot designers are inspired by nature and biologists can use robots to better understand the behavior of animal species. We believe that our work represents an important contribution to the study of animal and robotic locomotion.”