A robot with a tail in the works

Lizard

Ever imagined a robot with a tail? Well, this is one idea lizards have for robots that has been reported by scientists from the University of California Berkeley. The researchers believe that tails gives lizards more flexibility to swerve away from slips and falls.

The team found that lizards manage to jump successfully even when they slip or fall. An apparent reason for this was the tail which the lizards supposedly swing in the upward direction to avoid falling directly onto a rock.

Lizard Tailbot

“We showed for the first time that lizards swing their tail up or down to counteract the rotation of their body, keeping them stable,” commented Robert J. Full, UC Berkeley professor of integrative biology. “Inspiration from lizard tails will likely lead to far more agile search-and-rescue robots, as well as ones having greater capability to more rapidly detect chemical, biological or nuclear hazards.”

Even dinosaurs used their tails in a particular manner to reflect the right attitude, the scientists believed. The study trailed a hypothesis put forth around 40 years ago, that the tails of two-legged theropod dinosaurs worked as stabilizers to ward off hindrances and attackers.

In this research, the team created a mathematical model, a toy called Tailbot and a tiny gyroscope. The latter is a toy car with a tail transfixed at the rear. When the sensors did not provide any feedback to Tailbot, it seemed to take a nose dive off the platform similar to a lizard’s movement. However, when an update regarding body positions was fed into the tail motor, the robot’s body became steady in midair.

This kind of a controlled tail appeared to effectively set back the body’s angular momentum into the swing of the tail. The phenomenon is usually seen in jumping lizards. The research has opened up a distinct area in this field termed as inertial assisted robotics.

The findings will be published in the journal, Nature.

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