Sunday, October 26, 2008
The Biologically Inspired Robotics Group (BIRG) at l’École Polytechnique Fédérale de Lausanne in Switzerland has designed a Tiktaalik-like robot, Salamandra robotica, that can swim, crawl, and walk, perhaps the first of its kind.
The group studies the “neural mechanisms underlying movement control and learning in animals, and … take[s] inspiration from animals [both] to design new control methods for robotics [and] novel robots capable of agile locomotion in complex environments.”
BIRG explains that this project addresses vertebrate locomotion, by looking at:
1) modifications made to spinal circuits during the evolutionary transition from aquatic to terrestrial locomotion;
(2) mechanisms necessary for coordination of limb and axial movements, and
(3) mechanisms that underlie gait transitions induced by simple electrical stimulation of the brain stem.
The group hopes to explain how creatures transition between swimming and walking. Results suggest this occurs “by simply varying the level of stimulation of the brain stem.”