There are a lot of projects that are trying to replicate the locomotion of insects, but one thing that computers and logic are not so good about is improvising and adapting the way the bugs them smaller and simpler do it. This Tokyo Tech project is a step in that direction, producing paces on the fly that researchers have never planned.
"Perhaps the most exciting moment of the research was the moment when we observed the phenomena and the gaits of the robot that we neither conceived nor expected, and which then biological insects, "said researcher Ludovico Minati. Press release.
One could program an extremely complex AI or pattern generator to instantly respond to one of thousands of situations. But if an insect with a brain the size of a grain of sand can adapt to new situations quickly and smoothly, there must be a simpler and more analog way.
That's what Minati was looking for, and his hexapod robot is certainly a simpler approach. A central pattern generator produces a master signal, which is interpreted by analog charts and sent to oscillators that move the legs. All that is needed is to change one of the five basic parameters and the tables reconfigure their circuits and produce a work procedure.
"An important aspect of the controller is that it condenses so much complexity into only a small number of parameters.These can be considered high-level parameters, in that they explicitly define gait, speed, posture, etc., "said one of Minati's colleagues, Yasaharu Koike.
Simplifying the hardware and software needed for adaptable and reliable locomotion could facilitate the creation of small robots and their deployment in unfamiliar terrain. The document describing the project is published in Access IEEE.