Plenary Lecture

Biologically Inspired Robot Trunks and Tentacles

Professor Ian D. Walker
Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering
Fluor Daniel Engineering Innovation Building
Clemson University
Clemson, SC
E-mail: iwalker@clemson.edu

Abstract: Inspired by biological counterparts, particularly invertebrate structures such as elephant trunks and octopus arms, a new class of smooth profile, scalable, and inherently compliant continuum robots is emerging. This talk will review the state of the art in continuum robots and discuss their potential for novel applications. In particular, lessons learned from the development of a series of robot "trunks and tentacles" over the past fifteen years at Clemson University will be discussed. These robots are able to use their ability to bend throughout their smooth, compliant backbones to adapt to complex environmental geometry better than conventional rigid-link "vertebrate" robots. This allows them to negotiate complex obstacle fields and adjust their shape to manipulate a wide variety of objects. Practical robot designs featuring both intrinsic (within backbone) and extrinsic (external to backbone) actuation, and actuated by pneumatic and electric actuators, will be described. Demonstrations of these robots in novel manipulation application domains will be reviewed. Future directions for continuum robot technology will be discussed.

Brief Biography of the Speaker: Ian D. Walker received the B.Sc. Degree (First Class Honours) in Mathematics from the University of Hull, England, in 1983 and the M.S. and Ph.D. Degrees in Electrical and Computer Engineering from the University of Texas at Austin in 1985 and 1989, respectively. He then joined the faculty in Electrical and Computer Engineering at Rice University, where he was an Assistant Professor from 1989 to 1995, and a tenured Associate Professor from 1995 to 1997. In the fall of 1997, he moved to the Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering at Clemson University, where he became a full Professor in 2001.
Professor Walker is a Fellow of the IEEE and a Senior Member of the AIAA. He served as Vice President for Financial Activities for the IEEE Robotics and Automation Society from 2006-2009, and from 2006-2008 served as Chair of the AIAA Technical Committee on Space Automation and Robotics. He has served on the Editorial Boards of the IEEE Transactions on Robotics, the IEEE Transactions on Robotics and Automation, the International Journal of Robotics and Automation, the IEEE Robotics and Automation Magazine, and the International Journal of Environmentally Conscious Design and Manufacturing.
Professor Walker's research centers on robotics, particularly novel manipulators and manipulation. His group is conducting basic research in the construction, modeling, and application of biologically inspired "trunk, tentacle, and worm" robots.

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