Thursday, February 25, 2010

A little turtle shall lead us into the future of robotics

There's more than one reason the tortoise beat the hare in that epic race. Their sea turtle cousins are showing how, even as hatchlings, they are unstoppable by nearly any terrain they are likely to meet in their short but hazardous journeys from hatch-home to the sea.
 Daniel Goldman, an assistant professor in the Georgia Tech School of Physics  is one of many roboticists who have been puzzling over the minimum number of appendages needed by a robot to move effectively on land with varying terrain types.  They are now studying how these turtllings use their appendages differently in different conditions.  Their idea: design a robot with a flat mitts and claws.  It is the combination of those two features, accompanied by their deployment in different sorts of terrain - from hard surface to soft sand, that gets the little animals to the beckoning waters as quickly as possible.  

If robots are built with such appendages, the researchers think, they will be able to get around  obstacles like the sand dunes that limit the martian robots. Imagine if THEY had sand and pushing flippers, and claws to drag them in terrain not wheel- or tread friendly.
Turtle image Courtesy

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