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Roach-like robots run, climb and communicate with people

Front robot pulls back robot up onto step

Since the 1990s, Ronald Fearing has been developing biomimetic robots capable of remarkable feats of speed and maneuverability. With his team at the University of California, Berkeley, he designs robots to share traits with insects, lizards and other animals.

With NSF funding through the National Robotics Initiative (NRI), Fearing is now creating biologically inspired teams of robots that can cover rough ground while sending information to and receiving guidance from search and rescue personnel.

He says, "When it's dirty and dangerous, it's good to use small, disposable mobile robots."

Learn more about robotics at www.nsf.gov/robots

Credit: Carlos Casarez, Department of Mechanical Engineering, University of California, Berkeley


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Roach-like robot

Ronald Fearing has been developing biomimetic robots capable of remarkable feats of speed and maneuverability. With his team at the University of California, Berkeley, he designs robots to share traits with insects, lizards and other animals. One insect model they used for their designs is the common cockroach, sharing its gait, bouncing characteristics, stride frequency and other dynamics.

To create the miniRoACH (RObotic Autonomous Crawling Hexapod), Fearing and graduate students Aaron Hoover and Erik Steltz invented a scaled version of the rapid prototyping method known as the smart composite microstructure (SCM) process.

Learn more in the NSF special report A Foundation for Robotics: Designing cooperative, intelligent systems of the future.

Credit: A. Hoover, UC Berkeley


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Connected robots raise front robot over step.

Ronald Fearing and graduate student Carlos Casarez of the University of California, Berkeley recently tested a strategy for robots that are designed to run fast, not to climb or step over obstacles. They outfitted two VelociRoACH robots with radios, leg position sensors, gyroscopes and accelerometers to help the robots orient themselves, along with a small tether and winch system.

The researchers investigated "motion primitives" that would allow the robots to mount a step. Like small words that may be arranged to make sentences with many different meanings, motion primitives are simple actions that may be combined in different ways to accomplish a variety of tasks. The researchers demonstrated that by creating the right primitives, and combining them in the right order, the robot team could work together to reach the top of the step, then disconnect and continue exploring separately (watch the robots cooperate).

Watch the robots climb the step.

Learn more about robotics at www.nsf.gov/robots

Credit: Carlos Casarez, Department of Mechanical Engineering, University of California, Berkeley


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