Skip to Content

Robot vs. Lobster

When a hexapod robot challenges a decapod crustacean, who wins?

If four legs are good and two are bad, are six even better? That’s the question roboticists have been trying to answer for a decade, ever since boffins at the University of Pennsylvania, as part of a large DARPA-funded consortium, invented the RHex Hexapedal Robot platform.

While the RHex is traditionally used for experiments on land, Researchers at McGill University, in partnership with Dalhousie University and York University, have also succeeded in buidling AQUA, which can swim underwater - even in the open ocean.

Which is how this happened. What you’re seeing is a robot’s-eye view:

Robot 1, mother nature 0.

It’s all part of a larger effort to use a standard robotic platform to experiment with strategies for sensing the environment and adjusting the robot’s locomotion to navigate appropriately. Robotics, like computing, is becoming standardized: platforms like RHex allow students and researchers to build on a known system rather than having to re-invent the wheel each time. It’s code re-use, but for robots.

This facilitates stepwise innovations. Here’s the AQUA switching gaits as it goes from land to sea:

Diving:

Climbing a hill:

Following a diver, reading gestures, clambering onto land like a primordial lungfish, etc.:

Hexapodal robots are simple and robust enough that Boston Dynamics, makers of the BigDog pack robot, built a version for the Army. You can tell it’s militarized because in every publicity shot, it’s covered with a Rambo-esque quantity of camouflaging muck.

Keep Reading

Most Popular

A Roomba recorded a woman on the toilet. How did screenshots end up on Facebook?

Robot vacuum companies say your images are safe, but a sprawling global supply chain for data from our devices creates risk.

A startup says it’s begun releasing particles into the atmosphere, in an effort to tweak the climate

Make Sunsets is already attempting to earn revenue for geoengineering, a move likely to provoke widespread criticism.

10 Breakthrough Technologies 2023

Every year, we pick the 10 technologies that matter the most right now. We look for advances that will have a big impact on our lives and break down why they matter.

These exclusive satellite images show that Saudi Arabia’s sci-fi megacity is well underway

Weirdly, any recent work on The Line doesn’t show up on Google Maps. But we got the images anyway.

Stay connected

Illustration by Rose Wong

Get the latest updates from
MIT Technology Review

Discover special offers, top stories, upcoming events, and more.

Thank you for submitting your email!

Explore more newsletters

It looks like something went wrong.

We’re having trouble saving your preferences. Try refreshing this page and updating them one more time. If you continue to get this message, reach out to us at customer-service@technologyreview.com with a list of newsletters you’d like to receive.