Festo's AquaJelly is an artificial, autonomous jellyfish that emulates swarming behavior with an intelligent, adaptive mechanism. It is a project in the company's Bionic Learning Network, which includes universities, institutes, and development companies that cooperate with Festo in research to adapt principles in nature to industrial applications. At the heart of the AquaJelly's structure is a central unit, a watertight laser-sintered body containing an electric motor, two lithium-ion polymer batteries, the recharging control unit, and the servomotors for the swash plate. This is surmounted by a translucent hemispherical dome that houses a control board and sensors, to which are attached eight tentacles for propulsion. (Source: Festo)
Beth. when I looked at the details--as much as Festo will give--of their jellyfish and penguin robots I was stunned at the quality of the design. Perhaps I shouldn't have been: Festo is known for quality and clearly good design is required for underwater robots, especially autonomous ones. Their utility, at least for surveillance-type apps, seems pretty clear.
Chuck, I agree--they look so vulnerable, yet are surprisingly rugged. In fact, Liquid Robotics has just formed a separate joint venture company with Schlumberger for oil & gas exploration and production services: http://liquidr.com/files/2012/06/Schlumberger_LiquidRobotics_Joint_Venture.pdf
Ann, it would be wonderful to see the military engage in formal tech transfer programs like the national labs do. The labs have programs to send their R&D out to start-ups -- usually start-ups runs by former lab researchers. It's a great idea to make the taxpayer-financed research available to entrepreneurs. Robotics looks like a perfect candidate for tech transfer.
Prosthetic limbs and other artificial body parts have come a long way in the last 10 to 20 years, and many on the market and under development today can restore nearly the same functions as the human body parts they’re replacing, or even improve them.