Robots may need lizard-like tails to move through tricky terrain claims study

Researchers used a slow-motion camera to capture the nuanced movement of eight species of lizards.

Robots of the future may tackle obstacles and traverse uneven terrain, say scientists who found that adding a lizard-like tail to the machines can help them go 'off-road' sooner.

Researchers, including those from the University of Queensland in Australia, used a slow-motion camera to capture the nuanced movement of eight species of Australian agamid lizards that run on two legs — an action known as 'bipedal' movement.

The study, published in the Journal of the Royal Society Interface, challenged existing mathematical models based on the animals' movement.

A lizard clings to a tree. Image: Reuters

A lizard clings to a tree. Image: Reuters

"There was an existing understanding that the backward shift in these lizards' centre of mass, combined with quick bursts of acceleration, caused them to start running on two legs at a certain point," said Nicholas Wu, a researcher at the University of Queensland.

"What we found though is that some lizards run bipedally sooner than expected, by moving their body back and winging their tail up. This means that they could run bipedally for longer, perhaps to overcome obstacles in their path," Wu said. Christofer Clemente from the University of the Sunshine Coast in Australia said these results may have important implications for the design of bio-inspired robotic devices.

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