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” Roaches today, robots tomorrow – models mimic domestic pests’ agility, speed “

The lowly cockroach, loathed as an abhorrent creature worth crushing beneath one’s shoe, has found respect in an unlikely place — a robotics laboratory at Stanford University. Led by engineering Professor Mark Cutkosky, Stanford researchers are building robots that will replicate the cockroach’s remarkable speed and agility. They are among a growing number of scientists and engineers who believe that the robots of tomorrow will scurry and run and jump like insects. Researchers of Pest control London are cribbing from nature as they build ever-smaller robots that can navigate the trickiest terrain with ease. In their minds, robotic cockroaches, spiders and even crickets will one day venture where humans fear to tread, from mine-laden battlefields to distant planets.

One major goal of designing insectlike robots is overcoming the drawbacks of conventional robotic locomotion. Wheeled robots, though versatile and easy to build, falter on anything other than relatively flat, smooth surfaces. For example, the Mars Sojourner worked well until it got stuck on a rock while rolling across the planet’s surface in 1997. That wouldn’t have happened with a legged robot, researchers say, because legs provide greater stability and mobility than wheels. “Legs let us go places wheels can’t,” said Jonathan Clark, a Stanford graduate student working with Cutkosky.

While the advantages of legs seem clear, the question remains: Why a robotic cockroach? “They’re really fast, and they’re really tough,” Cutkosky said. Some cockroaches can move 50 times their body length in one second. On a human scale, that’s about 200 mph, which explains why cockroaches vanish as soon as the kitchen light is turned on. The great challenge in building a robot that walks like a cockroach was figuring out how cockroaches walk. Cutkosky admits he had no idea when he set to work on the project more than four years ago. For that, he turned to Robert Full, a professor of integrative biology at UC Berkeley. Full has spent a good part of his career studying animal locomotion by putting live specimens on treadmills and using high-speed cameras to record their movements. It took the better part of two years to translate Full’s findings into the first in a series of robots that walk on six legs what is interesting for pest control. Cutkosky dubbed the first robot Sprawl because insect legs aren’t vertical, but splayed or sprawled.

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