In the not-too-distant future, ...
- robotic canines will gallop up stairs and over collapsed beams in burning buildings, locating occupants for rescue personnel,
- robotic horses will walk through streams and down hillsides in thick jungle, carrying heavy munitions and medical supplies alongside soldiers,
- robotic cockroaches will climb up walls and inverted on ceilings in dark buildings, loacating persons inside for law enforcement officers, and
- robotic gophers will tunnel through distant planetary terrains, seeking life-supporting materials in preparation for a human visit.
Researchers have yet to unlock the secrets of legged locomotion that allow animals to walk, run, climb and jump seemingly effortlessly. Advances in high speed video, force plate technology and neuron probing have recently allowed scientist to “see” more of what goes on as legged animals locomote. Engineers can test and help formulate hypotheses for neural feedback and control, and develop biologically-inspired materials and mechanisms as part of biomorphic systems that progress toward the above-listed functionality. The Biomorphic Robotics Lab (BRL) performs research in this area, striving to unravel the mysteries and replicate the tremendous capabilities of legged animals, which also has applications to human prosthetics. This research is multi-disciplinary, largely across the fields depicted below.