DASH robot learns cockroach escape trick

(Credit:
Jean-Michel Mongeau, Ardian Jusufi, and Pauline Jennings, UC Berkeley PolyPEDAL Lab)

Cockroaches are way faster than you and me. Relative to their body weight, they can flee at the equivalent of hundreds of miles per hour and are gone long before your newspaper hits the floor.

But researchers from the University of California at Berkeley recently described how cockroaches can also run toward a ledge and then flip around to its underside in the blink of an eye, effectively disappearing from predators. Now they’re working on robots that can do the same.

Geckos can also perform this escape act, which involves using the hind legs as anchors on the ledge while the body swings under it.

“Both species ran rapidly at 12-15 body lengths-per-second toward the ledge without braking, dove off the ledge, attached their feet by claws like a grappling hook, and used a pendulum-like motion that can exceed one meter-per-second to swing around to an inverted position under the ledge, out of sight,” Jean-Michel Mongeau of UC Berkeley’s biophysics group and colleagues write in PLoS ONE.

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