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Plastic shell lets roach-bot squeeze through gaps

Shape helps six-legged robot shimmy past obstacles

By
7:00am, July 6, 2015
cockroach-inspired robot

TIGHT FIT  A cockroach-inspired robot can get stuck as it moves through narrow gaps in an obstacle course of stiff paper strips (bottom). But adding an arched shell to the machine (top, right) lets it turn sideways (bottom, right), helping it scuttle through cracks.

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Cluttered terrain won’t block this cockroach-bot. A sleek, rounded shell lets the six-legged robot scurry through tight spaces, researchers from the University of California, Berkeley report online June 22 in Bioinspiration & Biomimetics.

The robo-roach is short and squat, kind of like a clunky smartphone with legs. A bulky body is fine for trekking over flat surfaces, but not so much for moving in three dimensions. Bots tend to bump into obstacles and get stuck — but wearing a roach-style shell can help.

The arched plastic shell let the roach-bot wiggle through a maze of paper strips that stood upright like blades of grass, researchers found. Like real roaches, the shell-wearing bot could “body roll,” flipping sideways to shimmy through gaps.

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