RoboSimian: A Robot That Mimics The Movements Of Monkeys

 A Robot That Mimics The Movements Of Monkeys

From Naro-Nanin and Snake to Cheetah-Cub, the field of robotics is quickly moving up the evolutionary chain. In response to DARPA’s Robotics Challenge, NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory has produced a bot that mimics the motions of monkeys. The RoboSimian has been designed for search and rescue missions, and like its living counterparts, it can swing and climb through its environment with ease.

American researchers report that electrical signals from a monkey's brain, instructing its arm to move, can be used to stir identical movement in a robotic arm.

Miguel Nicolelis of Duke University, Durham, North Carolina, and his colleagues wired a monkey to a very simple robot arm that copies two of the animals' actions -- moving its arm left or right and retrieving food.

Using the Internet, they also made a second robot arm, hundreds of miles away, mimic the monkey's movement. There is no delay between the monkey moving and the robot copying it, which is crucial for artificial limbs.

"The idea of driving robotic limbs with what effectively amounts to the mere power of thought was once in the realm of science fiction," says prosthetics researcher Sandro Mussa-Ivaldi of Northwestern University Medical School and the Rehabilitation Institute of Chicago, Illinois. "But this goal is edging closer to reality. Gradually researchers are developing the hardware and software needed to connect brains with robotic limbs."

"It will be important to explore further the ability of this approach to generate movements of the robot arm over a wide region of space," Mussa-Ivaldi adds. "But this work represents a first step in the right direction."

This technology could one day help paralysed people control artificial limbs just by willing them to move.

The RoboSimian features four general purpose limbs, and no defined back or front. Without the need for a head, the robot has an increased range of motion and can quickly adjust and operate in any direction.

The RoboSimian is still under construction, and the model is awaiting the installation of hands and feet. The JPL team has partnered with Stanford University to design structures that will be able to grasp and manipulate objects. The DARPA contest is slated to begin in December, and the group at NASA has high hopes that the mechanical monkey will be able to accomplish the competition’s established tasks such as drive a utility vehicle, open doors, climb ladders and stairs, and break through walls. Knowing the kind of feats that real monkeys can achieve in the wild, JPL is looking forward to seeing what its artificial animal can accomplish.
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Write by: RC - Sunday, July 21, 2013

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