'Caterpillar' Robot Wriggles to Get Around
A soft, caterpillar-like robot might one day climb trees to monitor the environment, a new study finds.
Traditionally, robots have usually been made from rigid parts, which make them susceptible to harm from bumps, scrapes, twists and falls. These hard parts can also keep them from being able to wriggle past obstacles.
Increasingly, scientists are building robots that are made of soft, bendable plastic and rubber. These soft robots, with designs that are often inspired by octopuses, starfish, worms and other real-life boneless creatures, are generally more resistant to damage and can squirm past many of the obstacles that impair hard robots, the researchers said. [The 6 Strangest Robots Ever Created]
"I believe that this kind of robot is very suitable for our living environment, since the softness of the body can guarantee our safety when we are interacting with the robots," said lead study author Takuya Umedachi, now a project lecturer in the Graduate School of Information Science and Technology at the University of Tokyo.
However, soft materials easily deform into complex shapes that make them difficult to control when conventional robotics techniques are used, according to Umedachi and his colleagues. Modeling and predicting such activity currently requires vast amounts of computation because of the many and unpredictable ways in which such robots can move, the researchers said.
To figure out better ways to control soft robots, Umedachi and his colleagues analyzed the caterpillars of the tobacco hornworm Manduca sexta, hoping to learn how these animals coordinate their motions without a hard skeleton. Over millions of years, caterpillars have evolved to move in complex ways without using massive, complex brains.
The scientists reasoned that caterpillars do not rely on a control center like the brain to steer their bodies, because they only have a small number of neurons. Instead, the scientists suggest that caterpillars might control their bodies in a more decentralized manner. Their model demonstrates their theory that sensory neurons embedded in soft tissues relay data to groups of muscles that can then help caterpillars move in a concerted manner.
The scientists developed a caterpillar-like soft robot that was inspired by their animal model. They attached sensors to the robot, which has a soft body that can deform as it interacts with its environment, such as when it experiences friction from the surface on which it walks. This data was fed into a computer that controlled the robot's motors, and the motor could, in turn, contract the robot body's four segments.
The researchers found that they could use this sensory data to guide the robot's inching and crawling motions with very little in the way of guidance mechanisms. "We believe that the softness of the body can be crucial when designing intelligent behaviors of a robot," Umedachi told Live Science.
"I would like to build a real, caterpillar-like robot that can move around on branches of trees," Umedachi said. "You can put temperature and humidity sensors and cameras on the caterpillar-like robots to use such spaces."
The scientists detailed their findings online Dec. 7 in the journal Open Science.
Original article on Live Science.
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Founded by Russian entrepreneur Dmitry Itskov in February 2011 with the participation of leading Russian specialists in the field of neural interfaces, robotics, artificial organs and systems.
The main goals of the 2045 Initiative: the creation and realization of a new strategy for the development of humanity which meets global civilization challenges; the creation of optimale conditions promoting the spiritual enlightenment of humanity; and the realization of a new futuristic reality based on 5 principles: high spirituality, high culture, high ethics, high science and high technologies.
The main science mega-project of the 2045 Initiative aims to create technologies enabling the transfer of a individual’s personality to a more advanced non-biological carrier, and extending life, including to the point of immortality. We devote particular attention to enabling the fullest possible dialogue between the world’s major spiritual traditions, science and society.
A large-scale transformation of humanity, comparable to some of the major spiritual and sci-tech revolutions in history, will require a new strategy. We believe this to be necessary to overcome existing crises, which threaten our planetary habitat and the continued existence of humanity as a species. With the 2045 Initiative, we hope to realize a new strategy for humanity's development, and in so doing, create a more productive, fulfilling, and satisfying future.
The "2045" team is working towards creating an international research center where leading scientists will be engaged in research and development in the fields of anthropomorphic robotics, living systems modeling and brain and consciousness modeling with the goal of transferring one’s individual consciousness to an artificial carrier and achieving cybernetic immortality.
An annual congress "The Global Future 2045" is organized by the Initiative to give platform for discussing mankind's evolutionary strategy based on technologies of cybernetic immortality as well as the possible impact of such technologies on global society, politics and economies of the future.
Future prospects of "2045" Initiative for society
The emergence and widespread use of affordable android "avatars" controlled by a "brain-computer" interface. Coupled with related technologies “avatars’ will give people a number of new features: ability to work in dangerous environments, perform rescue operations, travel in extreme situations etc.
Avatar components will be used in medicine for the rehabilitation of fully or partially disabled patients giving them prosthetic limbs or recover lost senses.
Creation of an autonomous life-support system for the human brain linked to a robot, ‘avatar’, will save people whose body is completely worn out or irreversibly damaged. Any patient with an intact brain will be able to return to a fully functioning bodily life. Such technologies will greatly enlarge the possibility of hybrid bio-electronic devices, thus creating a new IT revolution and will make all kinds of superimpositions of electronic and biological systems possible.
Creation of a computer model of the brain and human consciousness with the subsequent development of means to transfer individual consciousness onto an artificial carrier. This development will profoundly change the world, it will not only give everyone the possibility of cybernetic immortality but will also create a friendly artificial intelligence, expand human capabilities and provide opportunities for ordinary people to restore or modify their own brain multiple times. The final result at this stage can be a real revolution in the understanding of human nature that will completely change the human and technical prospects for humanity.
This is the time when substance-independent minds will receive new bodies with capacities far exceeding those of ordinary humans. A new era for humanity will arrive! Changes will occur in all spheres of human activity – energy generation, transportation, politics, medicine, psychology, sciences, and so on.
Today it is hard to imagine a future when bodies consisting of nanorobots will become affordable and capable of taking any form. It is also hard to imagine body holograms featuring controlled matter. One thing is clear however: humanity, for the first time in its history, will make a fully managed evolutionary transition and eventually become a new species. Moreover, prerequisites for a large-scale expansion into outer space will be created as well.
Key elements of the project in the future
• International social movement
• social network immortal.me
• charitable foundation "Global Future 2045" (Foundation 2045)
• scientific research centre "Immortality"
• business incubator
• University of "Immortality"
• annual award for contribution to the realization of the project of "Immortality”.