'Ignore Mother Nature and put your foot down' is the advice from scientists in Switzerland researching the fastest and most efficient way for robots to walk, as Stuart McDill reports.
Fruit flies know how to put their best foot forward they use three at one time - and move the other three - it's called a tripod gait but is nature's way the best way for six legged robots? PAVAN RAMDYA, ÉCOLE POLYTECHNIQUE FÉDÉRALE DE LAUSANNE "To address the question we use simulations in robots like this one and try to identify new strategies that might be faster and more efficient for six legged animals to move through the world and in fact we identified a new set of walking strategies that we call bipod gaits. In bipod gaits two legs are on the ground at once, for example the front left and rear right or the middle legs, allowing the creature and the animal or the robot for example to move more rapidly through the environment and to optimise the cost or the energy efficiency of the robot as it moves through the world." The findings - published in Nature Communications - fly in the face of conventional wisdom A tripod gait wins climbing walls with sticky feet - but not on the flat. "Instead of the tripod gait, when you dont have adhesion which insects use to crawl up walls or on ceilings or other three dimensional surfaces, you actually can move more quickly using what we call a bipod gait. So a bipod gait is a dynamically stable gait that allows the robot to use two legs on the ground at once instead of three to move more quickly through the environment." And it's on the ground where most robots live - so why hasn't mother nature figured it out ROBIN THANDIACKAL, , ÉCOLE POLYTECHNIQUE FÉDÉRALE DE LAUSANNE "Insects don't use the bipod gait so why might this be? We saw in simulation that adhesion might be the reason why the tripod gait is there and that's why we asked ourselves 'what happens if we block adhesion in the real insect?' So we put little polymer boots on the animal which blocks the adhesion and then we saw that the tripod gait was disappearing. So we saw more of a bipod-like gait pattern." The team says their work shows how robots can move more quickly and efficiently on the ground, and will help biologists understand why insects move the way they do.