extremely rapid skittering motion of a cockroach, offer unique possi- bilities for artificial beings. However, nature does not move by means of wheels, gears, or servos, and so artificial beings do not move like animals.
Roboticists sometimes deliberately copy animal locomotion, as in Shigeo Hirose’s snakelike ACM R-1 unit. Examples like that reflect a general perception that if we study biological systems, we can use the principles we learn to improve our own creations. Applied to locomotion, this biomimetic approach draws on biomechanics, the science of how animals move. One of its leading practitioners is Rob- ert Full of the University of California at Berkeley.The name of his Poly–P.E.D.A.L. Laboratory reflects what he does, which is to study the performance, energetics, and dynamics of animal locomotion in multifooted creatures.
Full’s main goal is a biological one: to understand the mechanical performance of animals in quantitative terms, building toward a gen- eral theory of how animal bodies have developed and how they work. The significance of this is to better grasp the enormous diversity we observe in animals and relate it to their evolutionary history and eco- logical significance. But as Full learns in detail how animals walk, run, climb, jump, and bounce around the world, his findings provide re- markable inspirations for the designers of robots. Full’s studies of liz- ards, centipedes, and other creatures have contributed to the design of, for instance, legged robots that maintain balance with fewer cogni- tive resources than conventional designs and a crablike unit that can move on land or underwater, and in creating Mecho-Gecko, a robot based on studies of gecko lizards and cockroaches that can climb walls.
Another aspect of biomimetics is to understand how to build machines that look more human or animal-like, more natural, as they move.A walking robot, even one with many degrees of freedom in its legs, simply does not walk like a person. Our limbs move quietly and smoothly as our muscles contract and extend, whereas a robot’s move- ments are defined by rigid mechanical linkages driven by precision servos. Hence a robot’s motion does not look quite right when it performs large-scale movements such as are involved in walking, or