New research suggests that running robots in the future will not resemble humans. Instead, the robots will more likely look like ostriches, emus or dinosaurs.
Robotics experts believe that the efficiency through which non-flying birds such as ostriches and emus move around on their two legs can be utilized in future robotic design.
The two-leg movement of the flightless birds also resembles the movement hypothesized for the ancient dinosaurs that were the ancestors of these birds.
A study revealed that the speed, conservation of energy and the ability to stay in a proper, upright position of the ostrich is unmatched among the animal kingdom, even compared to humans.
Oregon University's Jonathan Hurst, the lead researcher for the United States team, said that birds seem to be the best among the bipedal terrestrial runners.
Hurst added that the agility and speed of these birds could be traced back over 230 million years ago to their ancestors in the dinosaur age.
Hurst also pointed out that while the running, flightless birds do not necessarily have the most graceful movements, the birds are able to properly conserve energy and avoid failing over while moving.
Research revealed that numerous bird species with different body sizes use the same technique when running. The birds included in the study range from the small quail species to the massive ostrich, which has a mass that is 500 times more than that of the quail.
To be able to hop over things that are on uneven and unstable ground, the birds utilized somewhat of a "vaulting" movement that is followed by a crouching position while at the top of the object.
Scientists also unexpectedly discovered that these birds are not prioritizing their stability while running. The birds actually let their bodies to move around in an ungraceful manner, as long as they do not fall to the ground.
To keep themselves upright, the birds could quicken or slow down the movements of their legs, similar to how football players change pace while running during the game to stay on their feet.
According to Christian Hubicki, co-author of the research and also from Oregon State University, understanding the movements of running birds will allow for better robot designs that can run faster and be more agile, even on a rough terrain.
"These insights may also help us understand the walking and running behaviours of all the common ancestors involved, including theropod dinosaurs such as the velociraptor," Hubicki added.