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1. A New Zealand hunting spider, Dolomedes
They seem to be too small to exploit the same passive dynamic
mechanisms that legged vertebrates use- which rely on the mass and inertia of the legs - and yet they are fast,
efficient agile pursuit predators.
2. In physics-based computer models of legged locomotion at the scale
of insects and spiders we can't reproduce the smooth, fluid motion of
the real animals. Agile control of a multi-link
structure like this is too hard for a computer ... but it
also seems to be too hard for a spider's brain. So we think
the spider must be mechanically designed to make gait generation a much
simpler problem. What is it about
the way that spiders are put together that allows them to move so
gracefully, and be controlled so easily by a brain smaller than a
3. MSc student Kiri Pullar is using a technique called model-based
Bayesian inference to determine how spiders move. This
"markerless motion capture" technique compares images generated by a
computer model of a spider to images from high-speed video of real
spiders. Starting with simple 2D stick-figure kinematic
(above), Kiri calculates how the joints move. This helps to
better spider models, and the better models are used to
better estimates of how the joints move ... and so it goes, until in
the end we hope to understand (and be able to reproduce in computer
models and real robots) how spiders move.
4. MSc student Stefan Reussensehn is studying the mechanical design of
the legs of Dolomedes
This video shows how legs are extended by fluid
pressure and flexed by elastic plates at the joints. We think
that spiders may capture and recycle energy in elastic fluid resevoirs,
making passive dynamic legged locomotion possible at this small scale.