story, science, technology and creativity

Ballet bugs: designing robots using spider crickets

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ballet bugs HelixWant to design the very coolest robots? Look to nature…

I wrote this article about spider crickets for CSIRO’s Double Helix magazine. Be sure to also check out the video below of the crickets in action. They really are beautiful!


Spider crickets can jump almost 60 times their body length—that’s like an adult human jumping across an Aussie rules football field.

Then the crickets land on their feet, ready to jump again. How do they do it? What if robots could move like that?

Rajat Mittal is using high-speed video cameras—able to snap 400 frames per second—to record how these wingless crickets can ‘fly’ so far.

“Watching these animals in slow motion is exactly like watching an elegant ballet,” Rajat says.

While rocketing up, the crickets streamline their six legs to maximise flight time. Once they start to fall, they spread their limbs, opening like an umbrella to stabilise them on the way back down.

“It’s kind of beautiful in a really weird way,” says Rajat’s teammate Emily Palmer.

“Ultimately, the application would be in really tiny robots.”

Jumping micro-robots could efficiently cross rocky ground, helping us to search for earthquake victims or explore other planets.

Author: cristyburne


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