Squirrel jumping inspired scientists to create dexterous robots

Biologists at the University of California, Berkeley have studied the physical characteristics of squirrels when they move to create the same agile robots.

Researchers at the University of California at Berkeley studied how squirrels jump and land to understand how they make decisions and move so dexterously.

The way squirrels move has inspired engineers to create the same agile robots.

When jumping, we must follow the movement of our body and evaluate the environment. Now we can understand what this control is based on and how it works, thanks to proteins: with the help of these animals, we will make the most flexible and intelligent robots.

Robert Full, professor of integrative biology
In the new work, the authors studied how squirrels behave in free flight, how they learn to jump from different types of places, how they change their posture already in the air and what they do after landing.

They also noticed that the thinner or smaller the branch from which the squirrels have to jump, the more cautious they are. However, after several attempts, the rodents adapt to this.

The authors note that when squirrels decide to jump, they estimate how flexible the branches are under them and what the size of the abyss under them. And when it turns out that the branch is too shaky or too small, then the squirrel needs only a few jumps to get used to these new conditions. This behavioral flexibility, the authors note, is the basis of their dexterous movement across any terrain.

One of the unexpected observations was that squirrels bounce off a vertical surface during difficult jumps, as they do in parkour.

Based on the collected data, scientists will create universal robots that, like squirrels, will deftly jump and move off-road, for example, in places of natural disasters or accidents.

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Alexandr Ivanov earned his Licentiate Engineer in Systems and Computer Engineering from the Free International University of Moldova. Since 2013, Alexandr has been working as a freelance web programmer.
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Alexandr Ivanov

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