Biomimetic Robot Animals - Not All Are Cute

The New York Times recently published a good article on biomimetic robots - cute robots that mimic animal movements. Robots that resemble lobsters, big dogs, snakes, elephant trunks - everything but Philip K. Dick's electric sheep:

"He ascended … to the covered pasture whereon his electric sheep "grazed." Whereon it, sophisticated piece of hardware that it was, chomped away in simulated contentment, bamboozling the other tenants of the building."
(More from Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep.)

However, not all biomimetic robots are cute, or even ambulatory. Consider, for example, an undulatory robot based on the lamprey parasite.




(From Lamprey Robot Video - 7 Mb)

"The body of the robot is composed of a flexible polyurethane strip which has an array of Nitinol™ wires affixed on each side. The wire arrays are staggered along the body axis so that the most anterior and posterior wires do not overlap. This allows the body to flex at any point and for flexion waves to propagate. The rod and Nitinol™ array are encased in a molded rubber form. During preliminary testing we have determined that the cooling by a surrounding water or oil bath is adequate to permit rapid wire relaxation and undulations at up to 4 hz."
Lamprey-Based Undulatory Robot
The lamprey-based robot was developed using work done by Dr. Ayers (of RoboLobster fame) and others. Hopefully, DARPA will never give the go-ahead for a robotic version of the business end of a sea lamprey (the mouth - see below).


(From Sea Lamprey

Read more (if you must) about the Lamprey-Based Undulatory Robot.

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