Spider trained to take leap for science

Spider trained to take leap for science”

A spider has been trained to jump on demand for the first time paving the way to a new generation of agile micro-robots.

The scientists did not use prey or bait as an incentive, but instead transported the spider between take-off and landing platforms until she became familiar with the challenge.

The metal belongs to a kind of jumping spider called Phidippus regius, or "Regal Jumping Spider". This was rather challenging since the spiders were reluctant to jump at the whim of some humans.

While the study has provided new insights into the spider's jumping abilities, some questions remain unanswered.

The researchers trained the spider, which they nicknamed Kim, to jump different heights and distances on a manmade platform in a laboratory environment. Micro CT scans were also performed to create a 3D model of the spider's legs and body structure. Credit: Dr Mostafa Nabawy, The University of Manchester.

"P. regius uses a range of different jumping strategies depending on the jumping task", the researchers wrote in their study. Kim moved faster to jump shorter and close range distances which used up more energy by reducing flight time making the jump more accurate and effective. Study authors then monitored the jumps of the spider with slow-motion cameras and analysed how it uses different jumping techniques based on different situations and challenges to catch the prey.

The team filmed how spiders jump on prey using high-quality cameras.

Spiders actively push their legs for jumping, using different type ways of storing mechanical energy or pressure of the internal fluid.

The team obtained four jumping spiders for the research - but found Kim was the only one who "showed any inclination to jump as required". This suggests that the additional power from hydraulics is not essential.

The circus act study could help engineers design agile mini-robots that are now beyond human technology.

Jumping spiders, which measure up to two centimetres across, are able to bound up to six times their body length from a standing start.

"Spiders represent a unique class of natural jumping insects - they offer exemplary jumping behavior at small scale with evidence of intelligence in assessing surroundings and planning prey capture".

The high-speed, hi-res videos of Kim revealed the jumping spider's anatomy and mechanics in unprecedented detail.

"There are still more questions to answer mainly related to the in-depth understanding of the control strategies employed by jumping spiders as well as detailed characterization of legs actuation forces within the jump", the researcher added.

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