I’m sure we’ve all seen horror videos of giant insects or bugs which go around terrorizing people. But a large research group in Germany is currently working on a robotic insect named Hector – a literal walking and functioning mechanism based on a stick insect. And (luckily) instead of using it to frighten others, they’re using this bizarre experiment in order to help them research insects.
Hector sits at roughly three feet long, made out of an ultralight skeleton and six legs, which connect to eighteen elastic joints that help it cross any type of terrain. His creators are Bio-mechatronic researchers working from Bielefeld University over in Germany. He’s the result of a 3 year research project overseen by 8 different research groups from Computer Science, Biology, Engineering and Physics. His main purpose is to help test different hypotheses on the types of insect movement. But even now that Hector is functioning, he’s still not complete. The researchers say that all of his sub-systems must be compatible at all times, otherwise he might end up lifting too many legs at once and possibly falling over. He already has sensors which are able to detect different obstacles and help readjust his travel course if needed, but the researchers are confident he can be used for even more. Their next idea is to start adding lateral cameras to his skeletal body, as well as feelers, all of which are inspired by insects.
It’s crazy to think that we’ve gone from studying the different types of animal movement, to actually taking steps to recreate them. Seeing projects like this gives you the feeling that we can start to overcome situations or even solve different problems if we’re able to change different variables in what we test. Scientists are already working on robotic bees in order to help the decline of the honey-bee population, and I personally cannot wait to see what else we’ll accomplish in the near future. I have the feeling that Hector is only the beginning of something big.