Researchers have created a centipede robot that can easily move on different surfaces.
A team of scientists led by Daniel Goldman, a physicist-biologist at the Georgia Institute of Technology, studied how centipedes move effortlessly through sand, soil, rocks, and even water. They decided to use these mechanical features of movement to create similar centipede robots.
Centipedes have dozens of pairs of legs, one for each body segment. This allows them to be maneuverable, notes Matthew McHenry, a biomechanic at the University of California (UC).
It was almost impossible to analyze their movements because they have too many body segments and legs. The researchers decided to simply connect several four-legged robots together: as a result, they were able to overcome long distances and obstacles.
Another Georgia Tech student, Eva Erickson, found that centipedes change their movement patterns as they speed up. It turned out that they change the type of their gait to suit the conditions of the area.
Centipedes usually move in waves, but as the speed increases, the direction of the wave changes. On flat surfaces, the wave starts from the last segment and moves forward. With difficulty, the direction of the wave changes again: the front foot starts moving first in order to find support. After that, each subsequent foot in turn takes a similar step, stepping in the same place as the first. This movement is called retrograde.
While working, Goldman created his centipede robot to understand how he could better coordinate his movements. She found that the centipede robot moves more efficiently if there is a delay between the movement of the limbs. The robot also moved better if its legs were connected and the body segments were pliable.
The next goal is to train robots to perform practical tasks, such as finding and destroying weeds. Engineers note that in the future, such technology will help with planting and harvesting, delivery of goods, environmental monitoring and even space exploration.