Email Print Share

"Parroted" -- The Discovery Files

The Discovery Files
Audio Play Audio
The Discovery Files podcast is available through iTunes or you can add the RSS feed to your podcast receiver. You can also access the series via AudioNow® by calling 641-552-8180 on any telephone.


Birds can perch on a wide variety of surfaces, thick or thin, rough or slick. But can they find stable footing on a branch covered in Teflon? In the interest of making better robots, Stanford researchers found out.

Credit: NSF/Karson Productions

Audio Transcript:

Smooth landing.

I'm Bob Karson with the Discovery Files, from the National Science Foundation.

Researchers at Stanford are studying the Parrot -- one of nature's best mimickers to try to mimic it: Here, an adorable little blue parrotlet named "Gary." (Sound effect: parrotlet: chirp) Not to talk like him. (Sound effect: parrotlet: "pretty bird") The team wants to learn to land like him.

You know how birds always seem to stick their landings? The researchers are studying the physics behind that. The complex set of variables, that could be adapted to flying robots.

Five high-speed cameras around a perch caught different angles to watch in super slo-mo. Sensors on the perch recorded forces in many directions, including how hard the bird was squeezing. In different tests the perch surface was sandpaper, foam, wood and this one: (Sound effect: chariots of fire-style music) (Sound effect: dramatic) A seemingly impossible Teflon perch. Gary gets the "go" signal from the trainer to land on the perilous perch. (Sound effect: random parrotlet sounds) The plucky parrotlet takes flight -- final approach and he effortlessly sticks the landing, on a non-stick perch!! (Sound effect: wild cheers)

(Sound effect: slow-motion parrotlet chirps) The team found upon touchdown, Gary could do some ultra-fast repositioning from one graspable bump to another in a mere 1 to 2 milliseconds. A human blink is like 400 milliseconds. (Sound effect: cartoon blink)

Happy landings for flying robots may get a boost from some "parroted" ideas. (Sound effect: quick chirp)

"The discovery files" covers projects funded by the government's National Science Foundation. Federally sponsored research -- brought to you, by you! Learn more at nsf.gov or on our podcast.

 
General Restrictions:
Images and other media in the National Science Foundation Multimedia Gallery are available for use in print and electronic material by NSF employees, members of the media, university staff, teachers and the general public. All media in the gallery are intended for personal, educational and nonprofit/non-commercial use only.

Images credited to the National Science Foundation, a federal agency, are in the public domain. The images were created by employees of the United States Government as part of their official duties or prepared by contractors as "works for hire" for NSF. You may freely use NSF-credited images and, at your discretion, credit NSF with a "Courtesy: National Science Foundation" notation. Additional information about general usage can be found in Conditions.

Also Available:
Download the high-resolution JPG version of the image. (66.6 KB)

Use your mouse to right-click (Mac users may need to Ctrl-click) the link above and choose the option that will save the file or target to your computer.

MP3 icon
NSF podcasts are in mp3 format for easy download to desktop and laptops, as well as mobile devices capable of playing them.