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Robots designed with insect instincts

Making leaps in the field of artificial intelligence, an engineer has created a grasshopper-inspired jumping robot. Mirko Kovac and his collaborators have created an innovative mechanism where the robot flies head first into the object

world Updated: Jun 29, 2010 17:33 IST

Making leaps in the field of artificial intelligence, an engineer has created a grasshopper-inspired jumping robot.

Mirko Kovac, a young robotics engineer from the Laboratory of Intelligent Systems at Ecole Polytechnique Federale de Lausanne, Switzerland (EPFL), and his collaborators have created an innovative mechanism where the robot flies head first into the object, a tree for example - without being destroyed - and attaches to almost any type of surface using sharp prongs.

It then detaches on command. The goal is to create robots that can travel in swarms over rough terrain to come to the aid of catastrophe victims.

"We are not blindly imitating nature, but using the same principles to possibly improve on it. Simple behavioural laws such as jumping, flying and perching lead to complex control over movement without the need for high computational power," Kovac says.

Jumping, gliding and perching allow for mobility over rocky territory or destroyed urban areas. This new form of artificial intelligence takes its inspiration from the insect world, but is more as an abstract reflection on their instincts and design principles than merely imitating their morphology.

This simplicity allows for greater mobility since the robots are not bogged down with heavy batteries, said a university release

Kovac imagines swarms of his robots equipped with different sensors and small cameras that could be deployed over devastated areas to transmit essential information back to rescue command centres.

The lab's recent innovation, perching a robot, saves valuable energy by allowing the robot to rest like insects or birds do.