As other squirrels approach, Sarah Partan (Asst. Prof. of animal behavior) and assorted grad students watch and learn. And interact. Rocky is able to go through sequences of behaviors that communicate with real squirrels; for example, the tail-flagging and other motions that communicate danger. Rocky is also equipped with tiny speakers to play recorded squirrel sounds.
"We watch for a trade-off in their behavior," she said, pointing out a squirrel that jerked to its hind legs and froze, its eyes scanning the area as it heard Rocky's barks. "He gave up foraging to focus on being vigilant, so that's something we'd note as a discernible response."
Okay, so far so good. But I just came back from watching Iron Man, and I'm very impressed with what a robotics genius working for two hours can accomplish. I want to see someone combine Rocky the robo-squirrel with either or both of these tree-climbing robots.
Built on a limited budget, this robot is intended to climb a fixed diameter tree while using sonar sensors to avoid branches.
(Tree Climbing Robot video Trinity University)
RiSE was funded by our friends at DARPA, so it's a bit more slick than the robot shown above, which was built as a senior engineering project. RiSE has interchangeable feet - claws, micro-claws or sticky material, depending on the surface to be climbed.
(RiSE the tree climbing robot video)
I believe that the resulting MechaSquirrel could dominate the forest, and the many animals that pick on squirrels, including cats, dogs, large snakes, weasels, coyotes, red foxes, raccoons, hawks, falcons, eagles and owls, would be sent packing once and for all.
Oh, and as far as sfnalesque references are concerned, check out this robot squirrel from World of Warcraft.