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"Cyber-Roach" Forces Rethink On Animal Movement

Soulskill posted more than 4 years ago | from the living-under-your-cyber-fridge dept.

Biotech 41

Lanxon writes "A team of researchers at the Royal Veterinary College in London has built a 'cyber-cockroach' (a cockroach wearing an accelerometer in a tiny backpack) to try and better understand the movements of many-legged animals. They found that unlike bipedal creatures, animals with more than two legs don't adjust their movements when walking over a softer surface." The academic paper is available from the Journal of Experimental Biology. This research will be helpful in finding better ways for multi-legged robots to navigate difficult terrain.

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The coolest thing about the Robo-Roach (4, Funny)

Gizzmonic (412910) | more than 4 years ago | (#32213768)

That robo-roach used to be a human guy, I think he was Czech? Anyway, he woke up one morning and he was a bug. And just when he started getting used to that, they put some cyber-helmet on him and started doing weird experiments on him! Talk about a shitty life!

Re:The coolest thing about the Robo-Roach (1)

sourcerror (1718066) | more than 4 years ago | (#32215616)

+1 for the Kafka tie-in

Re:The coolest thing about the Robo-Roach (1)

foniksonik (573572) | more than 4 years ago | (#32216298)

+2 for the RoboCop tie in.

Cyber roaches are old stuff (2, Funny)

mangu (126918) | more than 4 years ago | (#32213806)

Cyber roaches [google.com] have existed for nearly 25 years. Call me again when you have the cyber T-Rex.

Re:Cyber roaches are old stuff (1)

Monkeedude1212 (1560403) | more than 4 years ago | (#32213926)

1993 [imdb.com] called, they said you can't have their animatronics.

Re:Cyber roaches are old stuff (1)

fustakrakich (1673220) | more than 4 years ago | (#32216360)

1954 [wickedlocal.com] called, it said, "Get off of my lawn!"

I for one... (1)

mujadaddy (1238164) | more than 4 years ago | (#32213816)

welcome this priority realignment on migration from our Cyber-Roach Forces.

Re:I for one... (1)

Kell Bengal (711123) | more than 4 years ago | (#32213836)

I'm glad I'm not the only one who read that as Cyber-Roach Forces reconsidering their ambulatory strategies to no doubt increase their already terrifyingly lethal capabilities.

Re:I for one... (1, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#32215364)

I didn't consider that interpretation, but it's far more hilarious.

I read it like so: Cyber-Roach [invention] forces [a] rethink on Animal Movement. Not as being the literal movement of animals, but a reconsideration of some animal-rights activist group.

Seriously, WTF. Worst headline ever.

Re:I for one... (3, Informative)

Mat'nik (1291540) | more than 4 years ago | (#32214326)

The animal movement really needed this rethink.... i'm glad someone finally forced them. Good job Cyber-Roach!

Really? (1)

Monkeedude1212 (1560403) | more than 4 years ago | (#32213826)

This research will be helpful in finding better ways for multi-legged robots to navigate difficult terrain.

I thought I saw a video where they took an "AI" Unit, gave it a bunch of simulated legs, and told it to brute force its way into walking to move a distance, knowing only how to move joints. I believe it was a 6 legged thing, sprawled out on the floor to start with. They were kind of hoping for a spider-like walking thing to be procedurally generated this way, but what they found was that it kind of slinked itself along more like how you would imagine a starfish moving along the ocean floor.

I found it quite interesting. I thought this kind of simulation would be best for brute-forcing our way to learn the best movement options for various setups across multiple terrains. All thats required really is algorithms to determine what method of movement is most energy efficient, time efficient, or whatever efficiency you're looking for.

Perhaps those calculations in large numbers right now are just a little too intensive for todays computers? I dunno.

Re:Really? (1)

u17 (1730558) | more than 4 years ago | (#32214068)

It's been done many times, not just in simulation but in real robots. See, for example: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RZf8fR1SmNY [youtube.com] . Learning basic movement, or learning to navigate in a maze, without knowing what your available effectors do, but being guided by some kind of reward signal, are problems commonly solved by "reinforcement learning" techniques. The "Q-learning" instance demonstrated in the above video may seem brute force at first, as it begins with random exploration, but as it progresses, it focuses on "good" actions and hopefully converges towards an "optimal policy".

Re:Really? (1)

Black Gold Alchemist (1747136) | more than 4 years ago | (#32215662)

Another good example is here [nasa.gov] . The system actually learned gates for the Aibo dogs that were better than human designed gates.

A bit of a stretch (4, Insightful)

tomhudson (43916) | more than 4 years ago | (#32213840)

... animals with more than two legs don't adjust their movements when walking over a softer surface ...

... should probably read "some insects don't adjust their movements when walking over a softer surface". To extend this claim from cockroaches to all animals is so stupid it doesn't even rise to the level of "bad science."

Re:A bit of a stretch (1)

spazdor (902907) | more than 4 years ago | (#32214464)

Yeah, I thought this same thing.

"Trivially disproven using a cat and a blanket."

Re:A bit of a stretch (2, Interesting)

Locke2005 (849178) | more than 4 years ago | (#32214490)

Not "more than two legs", animals with 6 legs don't need to adjust their movements because if they only move 3 legs at a time, they are always inherently stable. Animals with 2 legs, and to a lesser extent animals with 3, 4, or 5 legs (depending on gait), do need to adjust their movement for different terrains to avoid falling over. Yes, if you are going to build a "walking" robot for harsh terrain, 6 legs appears to me to be the way to go. One legged robots [mit.edu] -- not so much.

Re:A bit of a stretch (3, Interesting)

EdZ (755139) | more than 4 years ago | (#32214654)

Actually, cockroaches can get over some crazy obstacles with little to no change in gait, That big honking joint in the middle? With just that, they can clime obstacles as tall as they are. Yes, they can switch to a wave gait for really big stuff, but most of the time they simply move their muscles in exactly the same way, and rely on the dynamics of their leg joints to conform them to the surface passively. It's an extraordinarily elegant and efficient way of moving. There's a lot of work in the field of passive-dynamic robotics aimed at modelling this sort of movement, allowing robots to move using legs with far less energy than they do at the moment, by designing them so a lot of the work in moving the limbs is done massively.
Lookup some of Dr. Roger Quinn's work. I can't find the videos he showed at a recent lecture in the UK, but they demonstrated how the much-maligned Whegs are really a lot cleverer than they look.

Re:A bit of a stretch (1)

Locke2005 (849178) | more than 4 years ago | (#32214818)

s/massively/passively/

You make a much better argument for my point than I did.

Re:A bit of a stretch (1)

TheLink (130905) | more than 4 years ago | (#32217866)

I found this video interesting:

http://www.ted.com/talks/robert_full_on_animal_movement.html [ted.com]

You'll see how they modded a live crab so it could run across a mesh net at near full speed, no change in gait, whereas previously it would have problems.

This video was done in 2005 so the "rethink" definitely happened way before 2010 ;).

Re:A bit of a stretch (1)

EdZ (755139) | more than 4 years ago | (#32222216)

That was a great talk, thanks for the link.

Re:A bit of a stretch (1)

ivandavidoff (969036) | more than 4 years ago | (#32214982)

I think even "some insects" is a stretch. It's not scientific even to say "all cockroaches" until they try it out on more than one.

Re:A bit of a stretch (1)

BoogieChile (517082) | more than 4 years ago | (#32216146)


Yeah, just one question, though;

How many land animals with six legs or more that aren't insects are there?

Re:A bit of a stretch (1)

BoogieChile (517082) | more than 4 years ago | (#32216170)


Wait, I just remembered the crustaceans....

Sorry, my bad, carry on.

Re:A bit of a stretch (1)

tomhudson (43916) | more than 4 years ago | (#32216320)

Spiders - 8 legs. They're arachnids, not insects. Ditto for scorpions, ticks, etc.

Mammals - Siamese dogs, cats, etc. (Ever see a 6-legged chihuahua? Kind of gross, actually. Still-borne, in a jar. It's mother was BIG for a chihuahua - more like a largish cat)

Re:A bit of a stretch (1)

The_mad_linguist (1019680) | more than 4 years ago | (#32218150)

Hey, they said "animals", not "all animals". As long as you find a couple of them somewhere, you're good to go.

Re:A bit of a stretch (1)

AmberBlackCat (829689) | more than 4 years ago | (#32219198)

My first thought was maybe things, that are really lightweight, don't make any adjustment when traveling over soft surfaces.

what about human movement? (0)

SethJohnson (112166) | more than 4 years ago | (#32213852)



Horribly, this research will likely contribute to a successful implementation of the human centipede [wikipedia.org] .

Seth

Why the lame photoshopped picture of a cockroach? (1)

viking80 (697716) | more than 4 years ago | (#32213942)

So why the lame photoshopped picture of a cockroach with a backpack? Is TFA unable to produce any documentation at all from images to data?

Re:Why the lame photoshopped picture of a cockroac (1)

Tablizer (95088) | more than 4 years ago | (#32215892)

I noticed the same thing. The roach is blurrier than the pack. What they did is misleading, and poorly done.

The hard part... (1)

sconeu (64226) | more than 4 years ago | (#32214054)

was getting the roaches to use the tiny hydration packs in the backpack.

Frist st0p (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#32214116)

Did any one besides me (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#32214166)

Think that the title was "'Cyber-Roach' Forces Rethink On Animal Rights Movement"?

Re:Did any one besides me (1)

Curunir_wolf (588405) | more than 4 years ago | (#32214364)

Think that the title was "'Cyber-Roach' Forces Rethink On Animal Rights Movement"?

No, of course not. Just you.

Re:Did any one besides me (1)

Paracelcus (151056) | more than 4 years ago | (#32214590)

Yup, I don't know why but you're right.

Re:Did any one besides me (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#32216308)

I was similarly confused by the title. I thought it was about implanting a computer into a cockroach's brain in order to control it, and people were protesting it as a violation of animal rights.

And then I read the summary which I think is also misleading; "built a 'cyber-cockroach' (a cockroach wearing an accelerometer in a tiny backpack)". I don't think that would be considered a cyber-cockroach either; I think they used the data from a real cockroach to create a computer simulation - and that's the cyber-cockroach.

Damn (1)

Ogre332 (145645) | more than 4 years ago | (#32215072)

i thought this story was about e-weed.

Anonymous Coward. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#32216102)

Could it be that roaches no need to change the rhythm because only weight 7 grams? Its not the same a robot of a few pound compared to a roach.

I'm pretty skeptic when science guys compare insects with robot behavior.

What an image in the article (1)

lordmetroid (708723) | more than 4 years ago | (#32216342)

Journalists, you do realize the cockroaches do not actually carry a backpack with an accelerometer in it, right? I am quite certain that the scientists simply glued the accelerometer to the cockroach and called it a day!

Animal Movement (1)

CaptDeuce (84529) | more than 4 years ago | (#32216554)

I thought it was referring to the animal rights movement and why did they care about cockroaches? Forcing them to wear backpacks?

How do they "do it"? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#32226314)

From the article:
"cockroaches don't stiffen their 'pogo stick' "

I am completely mystified...
How do they "do it" then?
The mind boggles

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