Giant robot insects. Sci-fi fodder of legitimate scientific inquiry? Now it's both. Biomechatronics researchers from Bielefeld University in Germany created a walking and functioning robot insect, about three feet long, named Hector. Yes, they named it.
The robot is biologically inspired by a stick insect, which they actually mo-capped in order to learn its movements and apply them to the bot. With an ultralight skeleton and 18 elastic joints, Hector can traverse a variety of terrain with each of its six legs moving independent of one another. Here's a video in action (and in German):
"All sub-systems have to communicate with each other for the robot to walk," says researcher Jan Paskarbeit in a release. "Otherwise...Hector might have too many legs in the air at one time, become unstable, an fall over." Hector also has sensors that can detect obstacles and readjust its course. Hector's main purpose, other than starring in my own robo-insect nightmares, is to help scientists test hypotheses on insect locomotion.
Hector is the results of a three-year project and eight research groups from computer science, biology, physics, and engineering. The next step is building in lateral cameras and tactile feelers also inspired by insects.
Robot bugs aren't exactly a new area of science. For example, scientists have been developing robo-bees for years to address the growing crisis of the decline of the honey bee population—but no one has made one that's freaking three-feet long. Hector is kind of a cutie, which could be exactly what he wants me to think. Either way, giant robot insects are here and I'm excited—and also terrified—but mostly excited. [University of Bielefeld via New Scientist]