SquRo is ready to go to work, Chinese scientists say. (source: Qing Shi)

Robotic Rat Design Enables It to Move, Stop, and Search Better Than Living Animals

Just the headline from the spectrum.ieee.com story was enough to give you the creeps. The headline announced the creation of an AI-driven robotic rat. One that crawls and climbs and really does look creepy. Of course, it’s all going to be used in very helpful ways, but brings thoughts of a robotic Willard to mind.

The researchers modeled their robot on the biometrics of a real rat. One rat, in particular, was chosen. Small four-legged robots such as Sub-2g robots can be used in confined spaces but can only carry small loads. A solution is promised by a biomimetic robot rat, modeled on cave-dwelling Norway rats (Rattus norvegicus) because of their mobility and adaptability:

But, choosing the right design is crucial to success in building a robot rodent.

“Though legged robots are very promising for use in real-world applications, it is still challenging for them to operate in narrow spaces,” explains Qing Shi, a professor at the Beijing Institute of Technology. “Large quadruped robots cannot enter narrow spaces, while micro quadruped robots can enter the narrow spaces but face difficulty in performing tasks owing to their limited ability to carry heavy loads.”

In a study published April 7 in IEEE Transactions on Robotics, they demonstrate how their new rat-inspired robot, SQuRo (small-sized Quadruped Robotic Rat), can walk, crawl, climb over objects, and turn sharply with unprecedented agility. What’s more, SQuRo can recover from falls, like its organic inspiration. That is to say, it is better than a real live rat when it comes to surviving a fall.

RoboRat is all about saving lives in critical situations such as a collapsed building.

Importantly, any robot that is navigating disaster zones, pipelines, or other challenging environments will need to be able to climb over any obstacles it encounters. With that in mind, the researchers also designed SQuRo so that it can lean back on its haunches and put its forelimbs in position to climb over an object, similar to what real rats do.

In an experiment, they show that SQuRo can overcome obstacles 30 millimeters high (which is 33 percent of its own height) with a success rate of 70 percent. In a final experiment, SQuRo was able to right itself after falling on its side.

So yes this is a very good idea that will doubtless save a lot of lives. Take a look at SQuRo in action below.

Does this remind anybody else of the movie Ben? And the song Ben? Might be a bit too old for some of our readers. But Ben was a rat from a movie who even had his own theme song sung by Micheal Jackson. Maybe SquRo will get its own theme song one day.

read more at spectrum.ieee.org