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Cartwheeling Spider Robots Conquer Sand Dunes

Robots inspired by cartwheeling spiders traverse sand dunes in Morocco

1 min read
Cartwheeling Spider Robots Conquer Sand Dunes
Photo: Ingo Rechenberg/TU Berlin

In Morocco, there are spiders that know how to do cartwheels. They can cartwheel down sand dunes, and also up sand dunes, which is more than a little bit remarkable. The scientist who found them, Ingo Rechenberg (a professor at the Technical University of Berlin), does what you do when you find an animal with a unique and ingenious mode of locomotion: you make a robot that does the same sort of thing.

There isn't a lot of information on the robots themselves, except that one of them is named Tabbot, which comes from tabacha, the word for spider in the language spoken by the local Berbers. Rechenberg suggests that the robot "may be employed in agriculture, on the ocean floor, or even on Mars."

Photo: Ingo Rechenberg/TU Berlin

Robots that roll and tumble definitely have a lot of potential when it comes to negotiating rough terrain, like sand, rocks, or even wet and slippery surfaces. These robots use large portions of their bodies to come into direct contact with the ground, which often allows for better weight distribution and traction than legs or wheels. It's sort of like having tank treads or other high-traction mobility system, except that by rolling, the robot can be significantly more energy efficient.

Whether or not these robots end up doing anything practical, we always love to see creative bioinspired designs that actually work like the animals that they're based on.

[ TU Berlin ] via [ NatGeo ]

The Conversation (0)

How Robots Can Help Us Act and Feel Younger

Toyota’s Gill Pratt on enhancing independence in old age

10 min read
An illustration of a woman making a salad with robotic arms around her holding vegetables and other salad ingredients.
Dan Page

By 2050, the global population aged 65 or more will be nearly double what it is today. The number of people over the age of 80 will triple, approaching half a billion. Supporting an aging population is a worldwide concern, but this demographic shift is especially pronounced in Japan, where more than a third of Japanese will be 65 or older by midcentury.

Toyota Research Institute (TRI), which was established by Toyota Motor Corp. in 2015 to explore autonomous cars, robotics, and “human amplification technologies,” has also been focusing a significant portion of its research on ways to help older people maintain their health, happiness, and independence as long as possible. While an important goal in itself, improving self-sufficiency for the elderly also reduces the amount of support they need from society more broadly. And without technological help, sustaining this population in an effective and dignified manner will grow increasingly difficult—first in Japan, but globally soon after.

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