HECTOR the Walking Robot Inspired by Insects

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A six-legged robot has been built to study the elegant movements of animals.

HECTOR (Hexapod Cognitive autonomously Operating Robot), designed by researchers at the University of Bielefeld's Center of Excellence Cognitive Interaction Technology, uses a new kind of bioinspired, elastic joint drive that mimics muscle movement. Each drive is equipped with sensors, electronic controls, a dedicated processor and a sensorized elastic coupling all controlled by biologically inspired algorithms. These allow HECTOR to react by yielding during collisions or interactions with people.

HECTORS exoskeleton is made of a light, yet durable, carbon fiber reinforced plastic (CFRP) and only accounts for only 13 percent of the robot's 26.45-pound body weight. Yet the 3.28 ft robot is still capable of carrying load over twice its body weight. A test showed it could carry a 66-pound load with less than one tenth inch of deformation.

The robot's exchangeable lid body design allows special sensor equipment to be easily switched and installed for different studies. For example, an omnidirectional camera for near- and long-range sensing can be easily swapped for a tactile antenna, more suitable for exploring immediate surroundings.

HECTOR's control program runs on the same distributed intelligence principle found in insect brains responding to stimuli. A specially developed interface and bus concept processes sensory information and links the robot's movement to the control system.

HECTOR'S creators plan to give the robot the ability to learn and plan, which will allow it to navigate unfamiliar territory and autonomously carry out exploration tasks.