Bluefield Daily Telegraph, Bluefield, WV

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August 8, 2012

If robots could only move like a cockroach

(Continued)

The story doesn’t end with the study of insects. Full’s research group has worked with some electrical engineers at Berkeley who are developing a six-legged robot with Velcro on its feet that they call DASH (for Dynamic Autonomous Sprawled Hexapod). The DASH robot is inspired by the humble cockroach.

Engineers have long labored to make more maneuverable robots. Now the hope at Berkeley is to make a machine that’s as versatile as the cockroach.

“Today, some robots are good at running, some at climbing, but very few are good at both or transitioning from one behavior to the other,” Full said to the press. “That’s really the challenge now in robotics, to produce robots that can transition on complex surfaces.”

The effort is not just academic. If we had intelligent and maneuverable robots, they could take on tasks too risky or difficult for us. For example, they could be sent into collapsed buildings or other areas too dangerous or difficult for first responders.

I wish the researchers well, and I’m glad they find inspiration for good work in animals like cockroaches. I’m also glad my kitchen is – at least for now – free of both scurrying insects and dashing mice.

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Dr. E. Kirsten Peters was trained as a geologist at Princeton and Harvard. This column is a service of the College of Agricultural, Human and Natural Resource Sciences at Washington State University.

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