May 16, 2008

Robotic zoo and more to demonstrate animal behavior turned mechanical at Case Western Reserve University

Robot shaped like a cockroach

Building a machine that moves like a cockroach, salamander, fish or another creature is no easy task. Over 100 of the world's pioneering engineers, biologists and neuroscientists who have contributed to building biologically inspired robots will be on the campus of Case Western Reserve University, June 1-6, to discuss new developments in the field of biorobotics during the Fourth International Symposium on Adaptive Motion of Animals and Machines (AMAM).

It's science fiction of yesteryear turned into today's reality. A Robot Zoo of crawling, leaping, creeping and swimming mechanical devices with names like "AMOS-WD06", "Robot III" and "AmphiBot" will be on public display on Thursday, June 5, at Cleveland's Great Lakes Science Center to showcase how scientists and engineers have collaborated and translated animal behavior and movement dynamics into mechanical devices.

Case Western Reserve researchers like Roy Ritzmann from biology and Roger Quinn from engineering have collaborated to build robots based on how cockroaches move. The event is organized to create a maximum of interactions between the biologists, engineers and neuroscientists working on robots, said Ritzmann, the symposium's general chair.

The event's keynote speakers include:

  • Paolo Dario from Scuola Superiore Sant'Anna (ARTS Lab-Advance Robotics Technology and Systems Laboratory) has been directly involved in a number of robotic projects, with one of the latest being computer assisted surgery and rehabilitation.
  • Hiroshi Kimura from the Kyoto Institute of Technology (Division of Mechanical and System Engineering) is developing a series of biologically inspired robots called "Tekken" with the capabilities of walking over irregular terrains.
  • Hunter Peckham from Case Western Reserve University's department of biomedical engineering and executive director of the Cleveland FES Center is building on the information learned about animal motions and behaviors to refine development of functional electronic systems that restore movement to humans with loss of movement due to spinal cord injuries.
  • Roger Quinn, co-chair of the symposium, and from Case Western Reserve's department of mechanical and aerospace engineering, is director of the Biologically-Inspired Robotics Laboratory, one of the pioneering labs in the country with robots based on cockroaches, crickets, ants and Whegs™ (robots with hybrid wheel-legs).

"Animals are really cool. People have described insects as simple systems, and it drives me nuts," said Ritzmann. "For nearly two decades, we've been trying to figure out how these guys walk and move."

According to Ritzmann, while the field has expanded rapidly over the past 20 years, researchers who build these robots have come to realization that they are not simple at all.

Ritzmann's research group provides the biological basis for insect-inspired robots. The engineering group from Case Western Reserve under Roger Quinn's leadership turns that information into mechanical devices. Case Western Reserve began its work in biologically inspired robots in 1987 when a doctoral student, Randy Beer, with the help of his advisor Hillel Chiel (biology and a researcher who works on slug behavior and soft-bodied robots) developed an "artificial insect" in simulation. They invited Quinn to join the group in 1989 (when Beer joined the faculty) and together they developed their first robot based on insect movement. Quinn and Ritzmann subsequently began to collaborate, and Quinn's lab has developed dozens of biologically-inspired robots with biologists Ritzmann and Chiel.

"So much is still unknown about how insects process information," said Quinn, adding this is the next step in the process of designing and developing robots that can move and independently operate in diverse terrains or environments from a desert to a collapsed building.

Researchers and robotic designers from Europe, Asia and America will attend and share information to learn about animal behavior.

AMAM

Past AMAM meetings, held every three years, have taken place in Montreal, Canada; Kyoto, Japan; and Ilmenau, Germany. Support for the conference has come from the National Science Foundation; the U.S. Air Force Office of Sponsored Research; the U.S. Office of Naval Research International; Motion Engineering Company; Fastec Imaging; Case Western Reserve's College of Arts and Sciences; Photron USA, Inc.; Xcitex, Inc.; and the Case School of Engineering, which is sponsoring the event at GLSC. Also, one day of the meeting is being sponsored by Mobiligence, one of Japan's largest current research programs.

For detailed information about the symposium, visit http://amam.case.edu/.

Posted by: Heidi Cool, May 16, 2008 02:33 PM | News Topics: Case School of Engineering, College of Arts and Sciences, Conferences/Symposia, Events, Faculty

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