A new generation of robots has just grown a 'tails' thanks to inspiration from the lizard. A research team at the University of California, Berkeley, funded in part by the Army Research Laboratory, observed the stabilizing effect a lizard's tail has on its body when scrambling and leaping through its habitat and have added tails to their robots to achieve a similar effect.
Now robots can remain upright and on track when tackling tough terrain.
The angle at which a lizard flexes its tail in relation to the surface from which it jumps and the angle of its body is what helps the lizard remain upright even while in mid-air. It also helps them land in control and upright.
"We showed for the first time that lizards swing their tail up or down to counteract the rotation of their body, keeping them stable," Dr. Robert Full, a professor of integrative biology at UC Berkeley, said in a news release.
In a video released by the UC Berkeley team they show how they've taken inspiration from the Agama lizard. Rolling robots without tails will basically free-fall off a cliff. Once researchers add a gyroscope to senses the robot's body position it gives feedback to the robot's new tail.
Behold, "Tailbot" is born. Tailbot has some mad in-air skills and can rock some scary landscape.
Of course Mother Nature has always known what she was doing when endowing creatures with their talents. That's probably why scientists (and the military) have spent a lot of time taking notes and building robots and machines that mimic their skills.
Tailbot joins the ranks of the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency's (DARPA's) Robo-Ostrich, cheetah robot, beetles bearing cameras powered by their own wings and the starfish robot that can crawl under doors.
There's a lot left in nature to inspire us so we won't worry about a long wait for the next robot that looks like it belongs in a zoo. It's only a matter of time.