Tel Aviv University researchers are using the maddening locomotive skills of cockroaches to improve robots of the future.
Amir Ayali of Tel Aviv University's Department of Zoology said the study of cockroaches has already inspired advanced robotics. Robots have long been based on these six-legged houseguests, whose nervous system is relatively straightforward and easy to study.
But until now, walking machines based on the cockroach's movement have been influenced by outside observations and mainly imitate the insect's appearance, not its internal mechanics.
Ayali and his fellow researchers are conducting a number of tests to uncover the mysteries of the cockroach's nervous system, studying how sensory feedback from one leg is translated to the coordination of all the other legs.
Their analysis of the contribution of each leg is shared with collaborating cientists at Princeton University, who use the information to construct models and simulations of insect locomotion.
Ayali said that insects utilize information from the environment around them to determine how they will move. Sensors give them data about the terrain they are encountering and how they should approach it. How this information transfers to the insect's legs is central to understanding how to mimic their locomotion.
The research was recently presented at the International Neuroethology conference in Spain as well as the Israeli Neuroscience Meeting in December.