Hector the stick insect robot is the brainchild of the Biomechatronics research group at Germany’s Bielefeld University. The robot can move all six limbs independently, and sensors allow it to react to its surroundings, and learn from experience.
Designer Jan Paskarbeit says even Hector could help test animal locomotion theories. “We are not going to send him into the sewers or anything. Rather it is a case of concretely understanding how walking works, or how walking on six legs works, of testing out theories from biology and enriching them with new ideas.”
Hector’s passive elastic joints act like muscles, and its ultra light exoskeleton is made of carbon fibre reinforced plastic. It can adapt to different surfaces and each leg can alter its course while on the move.
And soon, says its designer, Hector will also be able to see: “A camera system is currently being developed for Hector which should deliver a picture of its surroundings inspired by biology. In other words, Hector will be able to see like an insect.”
And just like a real stick insect, feelers are being added to a new prototype, so that the robot can recognize obstacles by touching them in advance.
Although Hector is purely a research platform, it can carry heavy loads, so potential future models could be used for search, rescue and transportation – making this insect not such a bad companion to have around.