In addition to flying drones, cutting edge technology is now expanding to the realm of biorobotics where robots are being created to mimic animals in order to handle outdoor and complex environments for use as service robots, search and rescue robots or field robots.
Bio Inspired Robotics
It may not be all that difficult to build a robot that looks like an animal, but it’s definitely much harder to build one that behaves like an animal. A group of scientists from École Polytechnique Fédérale De Lausanne (EPFL) led by Prof. Auke Jan Ijspeert has spent more than a decade building robots that maneuver in the natural environment like animals. The Pleurobot, designed to look and move like a salamander, is one of the group’s most recent robots and as creepy as it looks, its movements both on land and in water are really impressive. The biorobot doesn’t just mimic the movements of a living creature. It actually helps us to better understand our own biology, unlocking previously unknown secrets of the spinal cord.
“We present the new salamander-like robot Pleurobot. Contrary to our previous bio-inspired approaches, in this new approach we make use of the recent advances in cineradiography to benefit from the advantages that a biomimetic design can offer,” the Biorobotics Laboratory department states on their website. “We recorded three-dimensional X-ray videos of salamanders, Pleurodeles waltl, walking on ground, walking underwater and swimming. Tracking up to 64 points on the animal’s skeleton we were able to record three-dimensional movements of bones in great detail. Using optimization on all the recorded postures for the three gaits we deduced the number and position of active and passive joints needed for the robot to reproduce the animal movements in reasonable accuracy in three-dimensions.”
The Pleurobot may not be the fastest robot but its low center of gravity makes it highly stable and it is also multi-modal, meaning it can swim and also walk, seamlessly transitioning between the two functions. This makes this particular robot ideal for search and rescue applications, although for aquatic operations the robot has to be wrapped in a waterproof swimsuit.
Besides search and rescue, other possible business applications for this technology include scouting and recon, industrial inspection, archaeology as well as painting and coating.
The robots that we already rely on — like vacuum cleaners, cash machines, automatic doors, among others — are all good at performing a fairly straight forward function. However, biorobotics brings the possibility of having a robot that can multi-task — a smarter robot. What other business applications will be possible with these robots and the related technology around them?