Leaping lizards inspires robots design


(KTSF by Ricky Chan)

Two Asian students at UC Berkeley helped design a robot car with their inspiration coming  from lizards.

Undergraduate and graduate students from both Biology and Engineering majors worked together after class, where they discovered how the lizard manages to maintain  body pitch by using its tail when slipping or jumping. Even when the lizard falls upside down, once it swings its tail, it’s e able to land on its legs.

Evan Siu, one of the students who helped design the robot named Tailbot explains, “Adding a tail we believe can make the robot go a lot faster because now if the robot got bumped this way or bumped this way, the tail can come in and correct it.” The students designed a track for the lizards to observe how they jump, “So that when they ran, and then they slip off the box, what happens is normally it would fall forward, but instead of falling forward, they actually pick up their tails, and then retain their body pitch,” says Biology major student Debbie Li.

Students added a motion sensor detached from the remote control of a gaming console, put it into a robotic car, and added a tail to its back. When the sensor detected that the head of the robotic car was going down, the tail immediately kicked in and maintained the body pitch of the car, making it land on the wheels instead of bumping into the ground on its head.

While the tail of this robotic car can only go up and down, it can’t go sideways. But the students will continue to work on this in the future. Evan Siu adds “This one doesn’t do it yet, but that’s the future work that we need to do to make this a complete product.”

(Copyright 2012 KTSF. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.)

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