PerspectiveApplied Physics

Robotic Walking in the Real World

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Science  22 Mar 2013:
Vol. 339, Issue 6126, pp. 1389-1390
DOI: 10.1126/science.1235276

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Movement of robots over rough or unstable terrain is an outstanding challenge, especially for tasks such as remote planetary exploration, but animals manage such locomotion tasks every day. For example, in a natural environment, a lizard can traverse a sandy or pebbled surface in such a way that its limbs can push and move individual grains, which allow its limbs to penetrate beneath the surface of the loose layer. On page 1408 of this issue, Li et al. (1) present experiments and modeling of a biologically inspired, six-legged robotic device that was designed to move efficiently across a bed of dry, loose granular material. Based on the mechanics data, simulations were developed to identify designs that maximized walking speed.