EPFL Looks to Bats, Locusts for Jumping and Gliding Robots

Insects and flying mice with foldable wings inspire gliding robot designs at EPFL

1 min read
EPFL Looks to Bats, Locusts for Jumping and Gliding Robots

Gliding is a very efficient way for getting from point A to point B. Jumping is a very efficient way of getting into the air at point A, especially if there are a bunch of obstacles between point A and point B that it would be a good idea to be airborne to make it over. Grasshoppers have been doing this for, I dunno, probably like a hundred million years, and roboticists at the École Polytechnique Fédérale de Lausanne (EPFL), in Switzerland, are starting to design their robots with the same kind of jumping talents and expandable wings as our orthopteran friends.

Here's what EPFL's jumpglider hybrid jumping and gliding robot looks like when it's just jumping and gliding and not trying to fold itself up:

The jumping part, and the crawling around on the ground part, is somewhat impaired by the bot's giant wings, which is why getting this whole folding thing figured out would be pretty cool. Here's the locust-inspired folding mechanism in action:

Locusts aren't the only creatures with wings that cleverly fold up. EPFL are also trying out a system based on bats:

There's also some super secret third bio-inspired design that I can't find any additional info on (yet!), so have fun imagining what other animals might be used as a basis from which to create a gliding robot. Like, you know, elephants. It's all in the ears, man.

[ Mirko Kovac ]

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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
Blue

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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