Robots Are Learning How To Climb Walls From Roaches

Roaches are teaching robots to climb walls.  

A team at UC Berkeley is studying the creepy crawlies to gain insight into how they approach obstacles and scale walls, in order to improve the “DASH” bot, which stands for Dynamic Autonomous Sprawled Hexapod. The six-legged robot has a soft exoskeleton, similar to that of a bug.

Lead researcher Kaushik Jayaram stated, “When we observed video at slow speed we found that cockroaches would rapidly run towards the wall and basically collide into it head-on, and continue cycling their legs to climb up the wall.”

The team is observing roaches in controlled environments to study their flexibility and how their bodies absorb energy, then teach DASH to act similarly. DASH is learning to approach and climb walls without having to rely on sensors. Instead, it’s taking the same approach as the roaches, using momentum to crash into the wall, tipping itself up and using sticky padded feet to achieve its goal.

The team thinks it is important to look to roaches when developing search and rescue robots in the future so they can climb obstacles more efficiently. Roaches’ ability to squeeze in anywhere and climb up walls is usually an annoyance — it’s nice to see it’s being put to productive use.