This flexible “robot-turtle” moves and changes direction without the need for electronics
When we think of a robot We normally visualize it with cables, circuits and a series of electronic parts thanks to which it works. But the definition of the term does not imply electronics per se and, in fact, the only thing this robot needs to walk is air.
If the last time we saw a flexible robot like this it was one that imitated a cheetah, this time it’s almost the opposite: the robot they have devised at the University of San Diego moves like a turtle, almost literally. But even if it is slow and a very different concept to what from time to time they teach us from Boston Dynamics, that of flexible robots is an area that allows the development of projects directly related to helping certain tasks or health.
Give me a pressure gradient and I’ll move around the world
The robot has been developed by a group of researchers from said university, who They have published your project, seeing the details of the pneumatic circuit that makes this “robot-turtle” walk. In the video we can see that it is not a very fluid movement, but that the displacement movement in this case imitate the pattern of movement of these reptiles.
There is no motor or articulated parts: it is an air circuit with three valves, which allow you to play with the increase and decrease of pressure to stimulate movement and change direction. Each leg of the robot has three degrees of freedom and is made up of three tubes (which are connected pneumatic chambers), so that when pressure increases in one of them it bends in the opposite direction.
They explain in the study that their inspiration for this project was based basically on two approaches: thrift and physiology. In addition to the fact that the cost of the pressure motor is less than its electronic equivalent (as detailed), they focused on the reflex arcs of vertebrates, nerve circuits that do not connect with the brain and that allow certain actions to be carried out very quickly and, so to speak, less complex (or less conscious).
For Dylan Drotman, lead researcher of the project, this turtle robot represents “a significant step towards completely autonomous non-electronic robots”, although this one, as we see, is not quite so (requires a connection). What does integrate are sensors to avoid colliding against the elements found.
The use of this robot? This, specifically, is one more step on the way to achieving an autonomous robot capable of moving efficiently through difficult terrain and without electronics. Researchers see the application of this type of robots is that they can be useful in environments where metal or electronics are not well received, such as an MRI machine, or much more common and innocuous environments such as a child’s hands (for toys). So we will be attentive to their progress, especially if they start to be useful.
Image and information UC San Diego News Center