whats known and unknown

What roaches can teach robots about running at high speeds

on December 6, 2013


When a cockroach scuttles away from you and your insect-killing weapon of choice, its nervous system no longer responds fast enough for it to reliably sense its surroundings. Instead, the cockroach relies on its antennae to communicate how near it is to crashing into an obstacle.

Researchers believe they can emulate cockroaches’ antennae to give robots better awareness of their surroundings too. Like cockroaches, robots traveling at high speeds can have trouble noticing and responding to obstacles fast enough to avoid them. Researchers at the University of California-Berkeley found that cockroaches have evolved the best shape of antennae to do so. They published their work in the Journal of Experimental Biology this week (subscription required).

The Berkeley team found that when the insects run along a wall, they drag their antennae on it. When their antennae bend, it indicates the wall is rougher and they should keep a larger distance…

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