A recent research observed that Geckos use their tails to help recover when descending onto a tree. The study was published in the Nature Communications Biology journal and was carried out by Robert Full and Ardian Jusufi. The main highlight of the study was that Gecko uses its tail to glide in the middle of the air, correct itself after a fall, prevent itself from sliding off a tree, and even propel itself across a pool as if walking over water.

Gecko’s landing illustration

According to Ardian Jusufi, a faculty at the Max Planck Research School for Intelligent Systems and former UC Berkeley doctoral student, the discovery was eye-opening. Jusufi observed Geckos from the top in the rainforest canopy, where he saw Geckos taking off. He noted that Geckos move their head up and down and side to side to inspect the landing spot before jumping as if to estimate its travel distance.

Ardian Jusufi holding the Gecko inspired Robot

The researchers statistically analyzed the behavior of Geckos’ to establish that what they were observing made sense in actuality. To truly ascertain what the Geckos were experiencing, they opted to create a soft robot that resembled a Gecko at the Max Planck Institute and launch it into the wall with a launcher. They were able to measure the forces endured by the Geckos when they crash-landed and the forces created by the feet with this technique.

The Gecko-like tailed robot mimics the functioning of the actual carnivorous lizard Gecko. It is not the first time researchers have created a robot inspired by nature.

Bio-inspired robots and Biomimicry have been the latest evolution in robotics. It is about understanding natural fundamentals and applying them in the field of robotics to innovate and help in challenging tasks.

Previously, Korean researchers created a robot that an actual Chameleon lizard inspired. The Chameleon Robot could adapt to its surroundings and change its skin colors.

There has been a bio-inspired robot that can swim, jump, crawl and mimic real animals. One of the most exceptional bio-inspired robots is the tiny insect robot that mimics a cheetah and has the strength and endurance just like a real cheetah.

The functioning of Geckos’ tail inspired the research team to create a tailed robot. The tailed robot was developed from components made by the cutting-edge Carbon M2 3D printer designed exclusively for soft print frameworks. The feet were equipped with Velcro that helped the robot to stick upon contact.

Further, the team added a mechanism to the tailed robot to push its front legs downwards when it contacted a surface and slipped, just like the tail reflex of the Gecko.

The tailed robot gained success when it made a few tough landings. In the wild, 87 percent of Geckos with their tails have landed without falling on a vertical surface, while tailed Geckos have been falling more often. Only 15% of the tests successfully attributed to tailless robots could be successfully landed on a vertical surface compared to 55% of the tests with the tailed robot.

Ardian Jusufi (L) and Rob Siddall (R) testing the robot in the lab

Additionally, the research team found that longer tails weren’t that better than shorter tails after a certain length. Robots with tails that were barely half the length of the head and body together were nearly as effective as those with tails that were the length of the snout-vent. On the other hand, short-tailed robots needed twice the foot power to stay attached to the tree.

Full and Jusufi continue to study Geckos’ behavior to find principles used to build robots, specifically soft robots that can perch in trees and land on vertical surfaces. Also, to investigate the evolutionary origins of animal mobility.

According to Robert Full, a UC Berkeley professor of integrative biology, technicians strive to create the perfect robot while nature never does. Further, the study is co-authored by Rob Siddall and Greg Byrnes, currently improving the lizard-inspired robot.

Presently, the work is supported and funded by the Max Planck Institute, the Swiss National Science Foundation, the Cyber Valley Research Fund, and the U.S. Army.