A group of physicists, engineers, and mathematicians at the Georgia Institute of Technology are utilizing this movement style to determine if it could be advantageous for locomotion on Earth. As anticipated by their new theory of multilegged locomotion, robots with redundant legs could traverse uneven terrain without the need for additional sensing or control technology.
There is potential for these robots to be used in agriculture, space exploration, and even search and rescue operations, as they are capable of traversing complex, uneven terrain.
Science published “Multilegged Matter Transport: A Framework for Locomotion on Noisy Landscapes” in May. In March, Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences published “Self-Propulsion via Slipping: Frictional Swimming in Multilegged Locomotors.”
For the Science paper, the researchers were inspired by the communication theory of mathematician Claude Shannon, which demonstrates how to reliably transmit signals over a distance to comprehend why a multilegged robot was so effective at locomotion. The theory of communication suggests that one way to ensure a message travels from point A to point B over a noisy line is not to send it as an analog signal but rather to divide it into discrete digital units and repeat these units using an appropriate code.
A team led by Chong, consisting of School of Mathematics postdoctoral fellow Daniel Irvine and Professor Greg Blekherman, developed a theory proposing that adding leg pairs to a robot enhances its ability to move robustly over difficult surfaces; they call this concept spatial redundancy. This redundancy allows the legs of the robot to function successfully without the need for sensors to interpret the environment. Even if one limb fails, the abundance of legs keeps the animal moving. Effectively, the robot becomes a dependable system capable of transporting itself and cargo across difficult or “noisy” terrain. The concept is analogous to how punctuality can be ensured on wheeled transport if the track or rail is sufficiently frictionless but without the need to engineer the environment to create punctuality.
Eventually, the robot was tested outdoors on actual terrain, demonstrating its ability to traverse various environments.
Additionally, the researchers wish to improve the robot. They understand why the centipede robot’s framework is functional and are now determining the optimal number of legs to accomplish motion without sensing in a cost-effective manner that maintains the advantages.