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Multi-legged robot Myriapod

Researchers from Osaka University have developed a centipede-like robot and shown how its movements can switch from straight to curved walking, which can help in search and rescue operations or exploring other planets.

Most animals on Earth have developed a reliable system of movement with the help of legs, which provides them with a high degree of mobility in a wide range of environments. To some disappointment, engineers who have tried to replicate this approach have often found that such robots are surprisingly fragile. Breaking even one leg due to repetitive loads can seriously limit the ability of these robots to function. In addition, controlling a large number of joints so that the robot can move through a complex environment requires a lot of computer power. The improvement of this design would be extremely useful for the creation of autonomous or semi-autonomous robots that could act as reconnaissance or rescue vehicles and penetrate into dangerous areas.

A university press release stated that Myriapod is "a new kind of walking robot that takes advantage of dynamic instability to navigate." By changing the flexibility of the couplings, it is possible to make the robot turn without using complex computer control systems.

Their robot takes advantage of natural instability, capable of converting rectilinear walking into curved movement. In the study "Maneuverable and Efficient Locomotion of a Myriapod Robot with Variable Body-Axis Flexibility via Instability and Bifurcation", published recently in the journal Soft Robotics, researchers from Osaka University describe their robot, which consists of six segments and flexible joints. With the adjustable screw, the flexibility of the joints can be changed by the motors while walking. The researchers showed that the increased flexibility of the joints led to a situation called "fork-type bifurcation", in which straight-line walking becomes unstable. Instead, the robot proceeds to walk on a curve, then to the right, then to the left. Usually engineers try to avoid the occurrence of instability, but their controlled use can provide effective maneuverability.

"We were inspired by the ability of some extremely agile insects to control the dynamic instability of their own movement to quickly change movement," says Shinya Aoi, author of the study. "Since this approach does not directly control the movement of the body axis, but rather controls flexibility, it can significantly reduce both computational complexity and energy requirements."

The team tested the robot's ability to reach certain places and found that it could navigate by plotting curved paths to targets. Future versions may include additional segments and management mechanisms.

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