In motion, it looks a lot like a bug on the move and, indeed, draws its inspiration from the insect kingdom.
Biomimetics is a term first used during the 1950s by the American biophysicist Otto Schmitt. It was a part of his doctoral research in which he developed the Schmitt trigger. The trigger arose from his study of the nerve reactions in squid, and he then attempted to engineer a device which replicated the biological system of nerve propagation. It was this focus on devices made to mimic natural systems, in opposition to the standard application of biophysics at the time, which led him to his system he called biomimetics.
The STAR (Sprawl Tuned Autonomous Robot) features six legs and controls its "sprawl angle" to allow it to perform a wide variety of maneuvers meant to overcome environmental obstacles in its path. The robot can achieve "legged performance" over rough surfaces and obstacles using a high sprawl angle, and nearly wheel-like performance over smooth surfaces at small sprawl angles.
The creation of David Zarrouk, Andrew Pullin, Nick Kohut and Ronald Fearing, researchers at the Biomimetic Millisystems Lab at the University of California, Berkeley, the STAR was designed with rapid manufacturing in mind. The UC Berkeley team say components of the STAR (the body core, motor housing, spur gears, and legs) were all built using a ProJet 3000 3D printer. They say their robot was designed for easy assembly – and simple part replacement – and add that the entire mechanical structure of their "bug" can be assembled in roughly 30 minutes.
So what can the robot do?
Perhaps the creepiest skill this machine has is the ability to flatten itself and go under a door and then pop up and walk normally. The team at Berkeley says the STAR can also run at speeds up to 5.2 meters per second (that's 43 body lengths per second) on smooth surfaces and slide its legs to the side in order to reduce collisions with the ground.
In case you were wondering, 5.2 meters per second is something like 12 miles per hour, and seeing the tiny, autonomous robot move at such speeds throws a bit of an involuntary chill up your spine.
The biomimetic robot is 3D printed and controls its "sprawl angle" to allow it to perform some wild maneuvers to overcome obstacles.
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