Gastropods - A silly Idea ??
May 27, 2011
Just about every method of locomotion in the animal world has been mimicked in robotics. I've seen Fish, hexapods, ornithopters, octopods, synthetic trunks and tentacles, bipeds, even monopods, tripods, milipedes, frogs and snakes
Yet for reasons that I guess in the main are obvious, (but when did obvious inutility ever stop us !) One entire taxonomic group has been missed out of the "robots mimicking nature stakes", and not a minor one either!
Now as a paleaonotology buff I feel the need to highlight what is probably one of the oldest and certainly most successful forms of locomotion - The Gastropod ! (slugs, snails and their relatives - over 80,000 named species, second only to the insects ), this fine group of creaures surely should be represented cybernetically. Yet I've never heard of a robot gastropod ! - why has no-one tried the GASTROBOT !! - I feel a strong urge to right this wrong.
Does such a beast exist and I've missed it ? - A quick google seems to draw very few uninspiring examples and none from the Hobby world.... I feel a mission coming on!
I'd have to define gastropod movement as having the following parameters - maybe in this thread we could explore further criteria that would have to apply for a robotic slug or snail to be sufficiently "sluggy" (no really, I'd value your thoughts!) :
1/ Broad single contact space with the ground in a single flexible planar contact (a "foot" as in a slug or snail)
2/ Natural gastropods move by linear muscular contractions similar to peristalsys- often facilitated by exuding mucus (definite extra points for mucus!). So rule out tracks or belts of some kind.
Given their limited visual ability and slow pace of operation, I think some kind of "line follower" should be in order. maybe sensing the conductivity of a pre-laid slime trail.
for more info http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gastropod
My first thought (inspired by hospital peristaltic pumps) is for a foot that uses a single fixed stretchable sheet across the bottom of the 'bot above which rotating units produce the necessary peristaltic waves like this :
I figure 2 side by side under the single sheet could provide a "skid steer effect" I could even introduce synthetic mucus through holes in the latex base !
First the worm drive now the slug drive !