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Bioinspir Biomim. 2011 Jun;6(2):026007. doi: 10.1088/1748-3182/6/2/026007. Epub 2011 Apr 26.

GoQBot: a caterpillar-inspired soft-bodied rolling robot.

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Department of Biology, Tufts University, 163 Packard Avenue, Medford, MA 02155, USA.


Rolling locomotion using an external force such as gravity has evolved many times. However, some caterpillars can curl into a wheel and generate their own rolling momentum as part of an escape repertoire. This change in body conformation occurs well within 100 ms and generates a linear velocity over 0.2 m s(-1), making it one of the fastest self-propelled wheeling behaviors in nature. Inspired by this behavior, we construct a soft-bodied robot to explore the dynamics and control issues of ballistic rolling. This robot, called GoQBot, closely mimics caterpillar rolling. Analyzing the whole body kinematics and 2D ground reaction forces at the robot ground anchor reveals about 1G of acceleration and more than 200 rpm of angular velocity. As a novel rolling robot, GoQBot demonstrates how morphing can produce new modes of locomotion. Furthermore, mechanical coupling of the actuators improves body coordination without sensory feedback. Such coupling is intrinsic to soft-bodied animals because there are no joints to isolate muscle-generated movements. Finally, GoQBot provides an estimate of the mechanical power for caterpillar rolling that is comparable to that of a locust jump. How caterpillar musculature produces such power in such a short time is yet to be discovered.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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