A recent study from Biorob at École polytechnique fédérale de Lausanne at Switzerland demonstrated that if the six-legged insects or bugs were to run on a special gait over their convention tripod style, they could run 25% faster. These studies would give us a better understanding of the insect world and help us develop more lifelike robots.
The bipod gait.
This study may not enthrall you because apparently there is nothing for your benefit; however if our six-legged friends come across this paper, then they might get the point. A new study from Biorobotics Laboratory (Biorob) at École polytechnique fédérale de Lausanne, Switzerland reveal that if the six-legged creatures could change their current gait into a modified version, they might be able to run 25% faster on an even, plane surface. The usual or standard movement is called as a ‘tripod gait’ where the insects use three legs at a time to speed their forward motion. In the modified bipod gait researchers were able to see an increase in the speed when ran on two legs at a time like a horse or cheetah would do.
The hexapod robots.
The application of above finding might find an application in the robotics industry. Hexapods are six-legged robots that could walk on terrains like a real life insect. However, in a quest to improve their gait scientists did a thorough study which finally revealed that the bipod gait is better on flat ground. The study was a two-phase experiment where the computer programmed hexapods and Drosophila melanogaster were employed. While the robot models would be helpful for testing observations and simulations, the Drosophila will give more idea on the optimization part. At the end of the study it was clear that bipod gait was faster on flat terrain, however, the conventional tripod gait helped the insects walk upside down on walls and ceilings.
In order for the robots to run faster in bipod configuration, they shouldn’t have the sticky pads underneath their legs. These sticky pads helped the vertical walking, but without which the hexapods bipod gait was faster than tripod one. When a similar approach was done on Drosophila’s by disarming the adhesion on their leg with a polymer boot, the results were amazing; the fly adapted itself to bipod gait in order to traverse faster on ground. Thus it reveals that nature has programmed its beings to adapt and survive which in fact makes them superior to these robots. So newly designing hexapods can use bipod gait on ground and tripod while climbing in order to claim themselves ‘efficient’. Mankind is always innovated by looking into nature and changes like these would revolutionize our understanding about robots.
Source: Pavan Ramdya, Robin Thandiackal, Raphael Cherney, Thibault Asselborn, Richard Benton, Auke Jan Ijspeert, Dario Floreano. Climbing favours the tripod gait over alternative faster insect gaits. Nature Communications, 2017; 8: 14494 DOI: 10.1038/ncomms14494