The millions of years of natural selection that lies behind the immense biodiversity found on our planet is fertile ground for keeping robotics research rolling … in this case, literally.
Some caterpillars in the Crambidae family have the amazing ability to spring into a wheel shape and roll away when it’s time to get out of Dodge fast, and it is this talent that has inspired the creation of GoQBot – a 3-inch cm long soft-bodied robot that could provide a blueprint for versatile search and rescue robots of the future.
The gut-sliding locomotion of caterpillars has already formed the basis of research into soft-bodied robots. In this case scientists are mimicking the caterpillar’s ability known as “ballistic rolling” – one of the fastest wheeling behaviors in nature – with the aim of creating limbless robots which can move fast as well as wriggle into tight spaces.
“GoQBot demonstrates a solution by reconfiguring its body and could therefore enhance several robotic applications such as urban rescue, building inspection, and environmental monitoring,” said lead author Huai-Ti Lin from the Department of Biology, Tufts University. “Due to the increased speed and range, limbless crawling robots with ballistic rolling capability could be deployed more generally at a disaster site such as a tsunami aftermath. The robot can wheel to a debris field and wiggle into the danger for us.”