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Bio-inspired robotics

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Title: Bio-inspired robotics  
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Subject: Robot locomotion, Robot
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Bio-inspired robotics

Two u-CAT robots, that are being developed at the Tallinn University of Technology to reduce the cost of underwater archaeological operations.

Bio-inspired robotic locomotion is a fairly new sub-category of bio-inspired design. It is about learning concepts from nature and applying them to the design of real world engineered systems. More specifically, this field is about making robots that are inspired by biological systems. Biomimicry and bio-inspired design are sometimes confused. Biomimicry is copying the nature while bio-inspired design is learning from nature and making a mechanism that is simpler and more effective than the system observed in nature. Biomimicry has led to the development of a different branch of robotics called soft robotics. The biological systems have been optimized for specific tasks according to their habitat. However, they are multi-functional and are not designed for only one specific functionality. Bio-inspired robotics is about studying biological systems, and look for the mechanisms that may solve a problem in the engineering field. The designer should then try to simplify and enhance that mechanism for the specific task of interest. Bio-inspired roboticists are usually interested in biosensors (e.g. eye), bioactuators (e.g. muscle), or biomaterials (e.g. spider silk). Most of the robots have some type of locomotion system. Thus, in this article different modes of animal locomotion and few examples of the corresponding bio-inspired robots are introduced.

Stickybot: a gecko-inspired robot


  • Biolocomotion 1
    • Locomotion on a surface 1.1
    • Locomotion in a fluid 1.2
  • Behavioral classification (terrestrial locomotion) 2
    • Legged locomotion 2.1
    • Limbless locomotion 2.2
    • Climbing 2.3
    • Jumping 2.4
  • Morphological classification 3
    • Modular 3.1
    • Humanoid 3.2
    • Swarming 3.3
    • Soft 3.4
  • See also 4
  • References 5
  • External links 6


Biolocomotion or animal locomotion is usually categorized as below:

Locomotion on a surface

Locomotion on a surface may include terrestrial locomotion and arboreal locomotion. We will specifically discuss about terrestrial locomotion in detail in the next section.

Big eared townsend bat (Corynorhinus townsendii)

Locomotion in a fluid

Locomotion in a blood stream swimming and flying. There are many swimming and flying robots designed and built by roboticists.[1][2]

Behavioral classification (terrestrial locomotion)

There are many animal and insects moving on land with or without legs. We will discuss about legged and limbless locomotion in this section as well as climbing and jumping. Anchoring the feet is fundamental to locomotion on land. The ability to increase traction is important for slip-free motion on surfaces such as smooth rock faces and ice, and is especially critical for moving uphill. Numerous biological mechanisms exist for providing purchase: claws rely upon friction-based mechanisms; gecko feet upon van der walls forces; and some insect feet upon fluid-mediated adhesive forces.[3]

Rhex: a Reliable Hexapedal Robot

Legged locomotion

Legged robots may have one,[4][5][6] two,[7] four,[8] six,[9][10][11] or many legs[12] depending on the application. One of the main advantages of using legs instead of wheels is moving on uneven environment more effectively. Bipedal, quadrupedal, and hexapedal locomotion are among the most favorite types of legged locomotion in the filed of bio-inspired robotics. Rhex, a Reliable Hexapedal robot[9] and Cheetah[13] are the two fastest running robots so far. iSprawl is another hexapedal robot inspired by cockroach locomotion that has been developed at Stanford University.[10] This robot can run up to 15 body length per second and can achieve speeds of up to 2.3 m/s. The original version of this robot was pneumatically driven while the new generation uses a single electric motor for locomotion.[11]

Limbless locomotion

Terrain involving topography over a range of length scales can be challenging for most organisms and biomimetic robots. Such terrain are easily passed over by limbless organisms such as snakes. Several animals and insects including

  • Poly-PEDAL Lab (Prof. Bob Full)
  • Biomimetic Milisystems Lab (Prof. Ron Fearing)
  • Biomimetics & Dexterous Manipulation Lab (Prof. Mark Cutkosky)
  • Bimimetic Robotics Lab (Prof. Sangbae Kim)
  • Harvard Microrobotics Lab (Prof. Rob Wood)
  • Harvard Biodesign Lab (Prof. Conor Walsh)
  • The Soft Robotics Toolkit
  • Leg lab at MIT
  • Boston Dynamics
  • Center for Biologically Inspired Design at Georgia Tech
  • Biologically Inspired Robotics Lab, Case Western Reserve University
  • Research for this WorldHeritage entry was conducted as a part of a Locomotion Neuromechanics course (APPH 6232) offered in the School of Applied Physiology at Georgia Tech

External links

  1. ^ R. Fearing, S. Avadhanula, D. Campolo, M. Sitti, J. Jan, and R. Wood, “A micromechanical flying insect thorax,” Neurotechnology for Biomimetic Robots, pp. 469–480, 2002.
  2. ^ G. Dudek, M. Jenkin, C. Prahacs, A. Hogue, J. Sattar, P. Giguere, A. German, H. Liu, S. Saun- derson, A. Ripsman, et al., “A visually guided swimming robot,” in IEEE/RSJ International Conference on Intelligent Robots and Systems, IROS, pp. 3604–3609, 2005.
  3. ^ R. M. Alexander, Principles of animal locomotion. Princeton University Press, 2003
  4. ^ M. H. Raibert, H. B. Brown, "Experiments in balance with a 2D one-legged hopping machine," ASME Journal of Dynamic Systems, Measurement, and Control, pp75-81, 1984.
  5. ^ M. Ahmadi and M. Buehler, “Stable control of a simulated one-legged running robot with hip and leg compliance,” IEEE Transactions on Robotics and Automation, vol. 13, no. 1, pp. 96– 104, 1997.
  6. ^ P. Gregorio, M. Ahmadi, and M. Buehler, “Design, control, and energetics of an electrically actuated legged robot,” IEEE Transactions on Systems, Man, and Cybernetics, Part B: Cybernetics, vol. 27, no. 4, pp. 626–634, 1997.
  7. ^ R. Niiyama, A. Nagakubo, and Y. Kuniyoshi, “Mowgli: A bipedal jumping and landing robot with an artificial musculoskeletal system,” in IEEE International Conference on Robotics and Automation, pp. 2546–2551, 2007.
  8. ^ M. Raibert, K. Blankespoor, G. Nelson, R. Playter, et al., “Bigdog, the rough-terrain quadruped robot,” in Proceedings of the 17th World Congress, pp. 10823–10825, 2008.
  9. ^ a b c U. Saranli, M. Buehler, and D. Koditschek, “Rhex: A simple and highly mobile hexapod robot,” The International Journal of Robotics Research, vol. 20, no. 7, pp. 616–631, 2001.
  10. ^ a b J. Clark, J. Cham, S. Bailey, E. Froehlich, P. Nahata, M. Cutkosky, et al., “Biomimetic design and fabrication of a hexapedal running robot,” in Robotics and Automation, 2001. Proceedings 2001 ICRA. IEEE International Conference on, vol. 4, pp. 3643–3649, 2001.
  11. ^ a b S. Kim, J. Clark, and M. Cutkosky, “isprawl: Design and tuning for high-speed autonomous open-loop running,” The International Journal of Robotics Research, vol. 25, no. 9, pp. 903– 912, 2006.
  12. ^ S. Wakimoto, K. Suzumori, T. Kanda, et al., “A bio-mimetic amphibious soft cord robot,” Transactions of the Japan Society of Mechanical Engineers Part C, vol. 18, no. 2, pp. 471–477, 2006.
  13. ^ Y. Li, B. Li, J. Ruan, and X. Rong, “Research of mammal bionic quadruped robots: A review,” in Robotics, IEEE Conference on Automation and Mechatronics, pp. 166–171, 2011.
  14. ^ S. Hirose, P. Cave, and C. Goulden, Biologically inspired robots: snake- like locomotors and manipulators, vol. 64. Oxford University Press Oxford, UK, 1993
  15. ^ a b R. Hatton and H. Choset, “Generating gaits for snake robots: annealed chain fitting and keyframe wave extraction,” Autonomous Robots, vol. 28, no. 3, pp. 271–281, 2010.
  16. ^ H. Marvi, G. Meyers, G. Russell, D. Hu, "Scalybot: a Snake-inspired Robot with Active Frictional Anisotropy," ASME Dynamic Systems and Control Conference, Arlington, VA, 2011.
  17. ^ O. Unver, A. Uneri, A. Aydemir, and M. Sitti, “Geckobot: a gecko inspired climbing robot using elastomer adhesives,” in International Conference on Robotics and Automation, pp. 2329–2335, 2006.
  18. ^ S. Kim, M. Spenko, S. Trujillo, B. Heyneman, D. Santos, and M. Cutkosky, “Smooth vertical surface climbing with directional adhesion,” IEEE Transactions on Robotics, vol. 24, no. 1, pp. 65–74, 2008.
  19. ^ S. Kim, M. Spenko, S. Trujillo, B. Heyneman, V. Mattoli, and M. Cutkosky, “Whole body adhesion: hierarchical, directional and distributed control of adhesive forces for a climbing robot,” in IEEE International Conference on Robotics and Automation, pp. 1268–1273, 2007.
  20. ^ D. Santos, B. Heyneman, S. Kim, N. Esparza, and M. Cutkosky, “Gecko-inspired climbing behaviors on vertical and overhanging surfaces,” in IEEE International Conference on Robotics and Automation, pp. 1125–1131, 2008.
  21. ^ A. Asbeck, S. Dastoor, A. Parness, L. Fullerton, N. Esparza, D. Soto, B. Heyneman, and M. Cutkosky, “Climbing rough vertical surfaces with hierarchical directional adhesion,” in IEEE International Conference on Robotics and Automation, pp. 2675–2680, 2009.
  22. ^ S. Trujillo, B. Heyneman, and M. Cutkosky, “Constrained convergent gait regulation for a climbing robot,” in IEEE International Conference on Robotics and Automation, pp. 5243–5249, 2010.
  23. ^ A. Asbeck, S. Kim, M. Cutkosky, W. Provancher, M. Lanzetta, “Scaling hard vertical surfaces with compliant microspine arrays,” The International Journal of Robotics Research, Vol.25, No. 12, pp. 1165-1179, 2006.
  24. ^ M. Spenko, G. Haynes, J. Saunders, M. Cutkosky, A. Rizzi, D. Koditschek, et al., “Biologically inspired climbing with a hexapedal robot,” Journal of Field Robotics, vol. 25, no. 4-5, pp. 223– 242, 2008.
  25. ^ M. Kovac, M. Fuchs, A. Guignard, J. Zufferey, and D. Floreano, “A miniature 7g jumping robot,” in IEEE International Conference on Robotics and Automation, pp. 373–378, 2008.
  26. ^ A. J. Ijspeert, A. Crespi, D. Ryczko and J.-M. Cabelguen, "From swimming to walking with a salamander robot driven by a spinal cord model," Science, vol. 315, num. 5817, p. 1416-1420, 2007.
  27. ^ K. Hirai, M. Hirose, Y. Haikawa, and T. Takenaka, “The development of honda humanoid robot,” in IEEE International Conference on Robotics and Automation, vol. 2, pp. 1321–1326, 1998.
  28. ^ S. Collins, M. Wisse, and A. Ruina, “A three-dimensional passive-dynamic walking robot with two legs and knees,” The International Journal of Robotics Research, vol. 20, no. 7, pp. 607–615, 2001.
  29. ^ Trivedi, D., Rahn, C. D., Kier, W. M., & Walker, I. D. (2008). Soft robotics: Biological inspiration, state of the art, and future research. Applied Bionics and Biomechanics, 5(3), 99-117.
  30. ^ R. Shepherd, F. Ilievski, W. Choi, S. Morin, A. Stokes, A. Mazzeo, X. Chen, M. Wang, and G. Whitesides, “Multigait soft robot,” Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, vol. 108, no. 51, pp. 20400–20403, 2011.


See also

Soft robotics [29] is a new field in robotics and the idea is to make all of the components in the robot soft and flexible in order to move in very limited spaces and change gaits fairly easily. This field is inspired by animals such as octopus or starfish. One of the first multigait soft robots is developed at Harvard University and is inspired by starfish.[30]


The collective behavior of animals has been of interest to researchers for several years. Ants


Humanoid robots are robots that look like human or are inspired by human. There are many different types of humanoid robots for applications such as personal assistance, reception, work at industries, or companionship. This type of robots are used for research purposes as well and were originally developed to build better orthosis and prosthesis for human beings. Petman is one of the first and most advanced humanoid robots developed at Boston Dynamics. Some of the humanoid robots such as Honda Asimo are over actuated.[27] On the other hand, there are some humanoid robots like the robot developed at Cornell University that do not have any actuators and walk passively descending a shallow slope.[28]


The modular robots are typically capable of performing several tasks and are specifically useful for search and rescue or exploratory missions. Some of the featured robots in this category include a salamander inspired robot developed at EPFL that can walk and swim,[26] a snake inspired robot developed at Carnegie-Mellon University that has four different modes of terrestrial locomotion,[15] and a cockroach inspired robot can run and climb on a variety of complex terrain.[9]

Honda Asimo: A Humanoid robot


Morphological classification

One of the tasks commonly performed by a variety of living organisms is jumping. Bharal, hares, kangaroo, grasshopper, flea, and locust are among the best jumping animals. A miniature 7g jumping robot inspired by locust has been developed at EPFL that can jump up to 138 cm.[25]


Climbing is an especially difficult task because mistakes made by the climber may cause the climber to lose its grip and fall. Most robots have been built around a single functionality observed in their biological counterparts. Geckobots[17] typically use van der waals forces that work only on smooth surfaces. Stickybots,[18][19][20][21] and[22] use directional dry adhesives that works best on smooth surfaces. Spinybot[23] and the RiSE[24] robot are among the insect-like robots that use spines instead. Legged climbing robots have several limitations. They cannot handle large obstacles since they are not flexible and they require a wide space for moving. They usually cannot climb both smooth and rough surfaces or handle vertical to horizontal transitions as well.



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