Robots that walk faster with the help of flexible feet

A few months ago we had published the initiative of David Zarrouk and his team in the development of the caterpillar robot, which could move around replicating the locomotion of this insect, thus allowing it to stand up to be able to cross obstacles.

Now, scientists from the University of California located in San Diego are making headlines, thanks to the development of flexible feet, whose implementation in robots will help increase their walking speed by up to 40% on uneven terrain where pebbles and chips are present. wood.

With the manufacture of these flexible feet, scientists believe that they could be of great use in search and rescue missions, as well as in space exploration tasks.

According to Emily Lathrop, first author of the work and doctoral student at the School of Engineering of the University of California in San Diego in relation to the movement of robots, she expressed the following:

Robots need to be able to walk quickly and efficiently on natural and uneven terrain in order to go all the places humans can go, but maybe they shouldn’t.

The RoboSoft conference, held virtually from May 15 to July 15, 2020, will be the occasion used by the researchers to present their findings.

Regarding the structure, these feet are represented in the form of flexible spheres made of latex membrane filled with coffee grounds.

These structures arise as a result of inspiration from nature, reflected in the roots of plants and artificial, reflected in the piles driven into the ground used to keep the slopes stable.

How do these flexible feet work?

When taking action, the feet allow the robots to move faster and have better traction, a result favored by the presence of a mechanism called granular jam which makes it possible for granular media (coffee beans) to fluctuate their state, causing them to behave as a solid and a liquid at the same time.

Thus, when the feet come into contact with the ground, they reaffirm, integrating with the ground below, then adopting a solid base to unblock and loosen when making the transition from one step to another. In this sense, the support structures allow the flexible feet to remain rigid when they are stuck.

It should be noted that this is the first time that these feet have been put to the test on uneven ground made up of gravel and wood chips.

A commercially available hexpod robot was used to install the flexible feet, in which the researchers implanted an on-board system that generates a negative pressure in charge of controlling the jamming in the feet, and a positive pressure in charge of unblocking them between each step.