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Researchers have discovered a faster and more efficient gait, never observed in nature, for six-legged robots walking on flat ground. Bio-inspired gaits, which are less efficient for robots, are used by real insects because they have adhesive pads to walk in three dimensions. (Credit: EPFL/Alain Herzog)

Researchers in Lausanne, Switzerland have determined that a bipod gait is the fastest and most efficient way for six-legged robots to move on flat ground, provided they don’t have the adhesive pads used by insects to climb walls and ceilings. This suggests designers of insect-inspired robots should make a break with the nature-inspired tripod-gait paradigm.

The scientists carried out a host of computer simulations, tests on robots, and experiments on a real insect. To test the various combinations, the researchers used an evolutionary-like algorithm to optimize the walking speed of a simulated insect model. Step-by-step, this algorithm sifted through many different possible gaits, eliminating the slowest and shortlisting the fastest. Simulations of ground walking without the adhesiveness of insects’ legs revealed that bipod gaits (where only two legs are on the ground at any given time) are faster and more efficient, although in nature no insects actually walk this way.

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