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Off-Road Robots

April 10, 2013

Inspired by animals, researchers have created robots that can traverse sand.



Off-road robots. I’m Bob Hirshon and this is Science Update.

Inspired by lizards and insects, researchers at Georgia Tech have designed a six-legged robot that can walk efficiently over sand. Chen Li and his colleagues ran computer simulations based on animal locomotion to determine the most optimal leg shapes for traversing unstable terrain. They used a 3-D printer to produce the legs, which they attached to a modified robotic toy.Then they tested their designs on granular surfaces, according to Li’s mentor, physicist Daniel Goldman.

DANIEL GOLDMAN (Georgia Tech):

Something that looked very close to a perfect “cā€ but not exactly a perfect ā€œcā€, seemed to be the leg which allowed the robot to generate the most lift to keep itself high out of the ground and also to generate a lot of thrust to push itself forward with each step.


The research, which appears in the journal Science, could improve the design of mobile robots, including future Mars rovers. I’m Bob Hirshon, for AAAS, the science society.

Daniel Goldman and Chen Li show off their robot that can walk on granular surfaces. (Chen Li, Tingnan Zhang, and Daniel Goldman)