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April 29, 2011 AT 9:57 am

Ballistic Rolling Caterpillar Robot

Researchers at Tufts University have created a robot that mimics the caterpillar behavior of ballistic rolling, in which the caterpillar curls up into a wheel and rolls away at very high speed. From Discovery.com:

A robot that mimics one of the caterpillar’s trickiest moves, escaping predators by curling into a wheel and rolling away, has been built by researchers from Tufts University. They hope this new form of locomotion will allow crawling bots to explore tricky danger zones, aid in search-and-rescue operations or even explore for hidden treasure.

“The most difficult part was getting it to actually do a roll,” said Huai-Ti Lin, author of the new paper in Bioinspiration & Biomimetics. “There were a lot of trials, and a lot of sleeping in the lab. It was worth it. Once we got it to work, we optimized it and now we are matching the performance of the caterpillar.”

Lin and colleagues at Tufts University department of biology, where he just completed his doctoral degree, spent three years designing the 10-centimeter-long “GoQBot” out of silicone rubber and alloy coils. While experts have built devices that crawl like caterpillars, it’s the first time that they’ve figured out how to make a robot roll like one.


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