Waggable Tail Lets This Crawling Robot Do Turns

UC Berkeley might be able to claim the title of 'world's fastest turning robot', and it's all thanks to an innovation that Mother Nature came up even well before the dinosaurs: a wagging tail.

It turns out that tails aren't just a handy way to know when your dog is excited. They also provide extra agility and balance, allowing birds to make impressive mid-air turns, animals to dart around quickly, and now robots to make instant 90-degree turns. UC Berkeley's Tail Actuated Yaw Locomotion Robotic Autonomous Crawling Hexapod -- or TAYLRoACH for short -- advances the design of previous crawling robots with the addition of a counter-weighted tail that can swing back and forth.

Not only does it make the robot seem happy to see its creators, it also lets it make startlingly sharp turns without slowing down, even on slippery surfaces. The downside is that because the tail only has a limited range of motions, the robot can't repeatedly make the same sharp turns without repositioning it first. So the researchers are actually looking to improve its design with a 360-degree swinging tail. Your move, nature. [YouTube via IEEE Spectrum]