NASA 'earbots' keep robots steady

Scientists have, once again, looked to the natural world for inspiration.

A team of NASA scientists has developed "earbots," devices modeled after the cochlea, a section of the inner ear that uses clusters of sensory cell receptors and nerve fibers to help humans maintain a sense of balance.

The earbot is a Styrofoam golf ball-like structure containing clusters of micro electro-mechanical sensors used to sense direction of motion, acceleration and rotation, much like the cochlea measures head movement.

The earbot is part of a NASA goal to develop walking robots that can travel over tough terrain. The first robot to be implanted with an earbot will be an eight-legged scorpion-like robot about the size of a dog, according to NASA. It will be used to keep the robot's camera level while it moves.

The question remains, what kind of earworms would NASA robots with earbots be subjected to? The theme to "2001: A Space Odyssey"?

Tech Culture
About the author

In a software-driven world, it's easy to forget about the nuts and bolts. Whether it's cars, robots, personal gadgetry or industrial machines, Candace Lombardi examines the moving parts that keep our world rotating. A journalist who divides her time between the United States and the United Kingdom, Lombardi has written about technology for the sites of The New York Times, CNET, USA Today, MSN, ZDNet,, and GameSpot. She is a member of the CNET Blog Network and is not a current employee of CNET.


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