Not only animals have to be agile and manoeuvrable, but also robots. Especially when they are to be used in narrow, cluttered spaces. Large four-legged machines like BigDog and ANYmal have excellent adaptability and load-bearing capacity, but they cannot penetrate tight spaces. Conversely, small four-legged robots such as Sub-2g robots can be used in confined spaces but can only carry small loads. A solution is promised by a biomimetic robot rat, modelled on cave-dwelling Norway rats (rattus norvegicus) because of their mobility and adaptability:
A team led by Prof Qing Shi of the Beijing Institute of Technology has recently developed the novel bio-inspired robotic rat called SQuRo (small-sized quadruped robotic rat), which mimics the morphology and locomotor characteristics of rats and can perform various movements in a confined space. Through a special configuration of degrees of freedom in limbs and joints, it has succeeded in replicating the flexible movement of the spine of rats. Thanks to its long and flexible spine, SQuRo could bend its body and turn around quickly. In addition, the locomotion characteristics of rats were also mimicked in a multi-layered control concept. Thanks to the biomimetic, flexible structure and the multimodal motion control, SQuRo could perform various movements, such as squatting to standing, walking, crawling and turning. The robot rat could also pick itself up after a fall by controlling its limbs and neck area to adjust its centre of gravity accordingly. Moreover, SQuRo could still move even when carrying a load equivalent to 91% of its own weight.
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