Economist. 3/15/2003, Vol. 366 Issue 8315, special section p10-12. 2p. 1 Color Photograph.
WIRELESS communications, ROBOT design & construction, ROBOTICS research, AUTONOMOUS robots, INSECTS, and BIOLOGICAL research
The invention of the wheel was revolutionary and greatly enhancing mankind's mobility. But wheeled vehicles have their limitations. Thanks to advances in engineering and prototyping, a new generation of biologically inspired robots is beginning to crawl all over the place. At the forefront of this interdisciplinary field is Robert Full, professor of integrative biology at the University of California, Berkeley, California. In his Poly-PEDAL Laboratory at Berkeley, Dr. Full conducts locomotion studies by putting living specimens on treadmills and recording their movements with high-speed cameras. With insights from Dr. Full's cockroaches, a Stanford University team has created robots featuring slightly angled, springy legs. The focus is now on enhancing locomotion by adding more sensors. So far, only wheeled robots have been used in disaster areas, such as the World Trade Center in New York. The idea is to make cheap and low-powered robots that can communicate wirelessly while manoeuvring through rugged terrain.