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Researchers develop robotic mouse featuring enhanced flexibility, agility

Xinhua | Updated: 2023-12-08 10:41
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GUANGZHOU -- An international team of researchers from Germany and China has developed a robotic robot with a flexible spine capable of performing lateral flexion, which displayed heightened agility compared to other existing four-legged robots.

The study about this 40-centimeter-long robot nicknamed NeRmo, which emulates the morphology and tendon system of a real mouse, was published on Thursday in the journal Science Robotics.

The researchers from the Technical University of Munich and Sun Yat-sen University designed this neurorobotic, mouse-inspired robot with artificial nylon tendons, which support compliant and smooth spine-like movement.

They built a rigid frontal structure that contains NeRmo's electronics, and a vertebrate spine on the back equipped with four lumbar and lateral joints. The artificial tendons in its knee and elbow joints allow the robot to move more like a mouse and turn quickly, according to the study.

The robot weighing 225 grams boasts 13 degrees of freedom, allowing for a variety of flexible movements, including rotating hips and shoulders, flexed knees and elbows, lateral and sagittal spine flexions, horizontal rotation and pitching of the head, and lateral curved tail.

This design significantly enhanced the robot's swerving capability. In a maze navigation task, the time it took to exit the maze was reduced by over 30 percent compared to when the spine controller was disabled.

"The flexible spine improves the locomotion performance of quadrupeds in static stability, walking speed, and turning behavior. Our study may advance the understanding of spine-based quadruped locomotion skills and highlight promising design concepts to develop more agile-legged robots," said Bing Zhenshan, corresponding author of the study.

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