Insect-inspired robots that can jump, fly and climb are almost here


Reading — Advanced Level
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Tiny robots would be useful in medical applications -- for targeted drug delivery or simple surgeries sans incisions, according to Temel. Miniature robots could also save lives in dangerous places like minefields, or during search and rescue: "If you have small bug-robots," she said, it's possible to do "more efficient -- and safer -- rescue operations" following an avalanche or earthquake where it's dangerous for humans or even larger robots to tread.

Small robots that can work together, like ants or bees do, would also be ideal for exploring other planets like Mars, again keeping humans away from risky, unexplored situations:

"I hope my research will be used to make modular robots that can self-assemble, to be used by astronauts in unknown environments to lend a helping hand," said Jamie Paik, founder and director of the Reconfigurable Robotics Lab at the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology.

These are just some of the important applications bio-inspired robots could be used for, and that's why roboticists at the worldwide major robotics labs are dedicated to exploring the class Insecta.

Ants are a favorite inspiration -- they're able to lift bulky and heavier-than-they-are loads and travel quickly in sandy deserts as well as woodlands. These insects also work together to create bridges and surmount obstacles.

Trap-jaw ants served as a model for a team that developed a battery-powered, palm-size robot that can "adapt to an environment and can collaborate," Paik, a member of the team, said.

In the natural world, trap-jaw ants do all the ant things — and they can also snap their powerful jaws at the incredible speed of 90 miles per hour to jump away from predators. Paik and her team used the same mechanics to help give the robots a variety of movements, including "vertical jumping for height, horizontal jumping for distance, somersault jumping to clear obstacles, walking on textured terrain and crawling on flat surfaces," according to the paper's abstract.

Like the ants they are based on, each unit is completely autonomous, but they can communicate and thereby work together via a simple transmitter.
  1. Which word best describes small robots?

  2. How can tiny robots help humanity during a disaster?

  3. What will modular robots most likely be able to do?

  4. What can an adaptable robot do?

  5. Who are the roboticists?


Practice your writing skills by discussing the questions below

  1. Why are ants an inspiration for roboticists?

  2. Do you personally think technology has helped make life more comfortable? Why? Why not?

  3. What are other uses for robots you foresee?


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