The six-legged RiSE was inspired by how geckos and cockroaches climb vertical surfaces. Full of sensors and funded by DARPA, the robot climbs walls, fences, and trees, changing its posture to conform to the changing curvature of each surface. Microclawed feet help it negotiate textured surfaces, and each of its six legs is powered by two electric motors. (Source: Boston Dynamics)
I find the whole practice of biomimicky fascinating and these bug/worm robots really are a testament to how taking a page from nature can really get the innovation juices flowing. I noticed that most of these robot projects hail from universities. Makes sense to get student brain power in the mix. I'm wondering, though, how many of these are purely research efforts vs. potential for commercialized products.
Great slide show. I wish there was video here too. Some of these must be very elegant in action. Thanks for the slide show.
Biomimicry in design and engineering has been around forever and proves to lead to some of the most innovative and evenually mundane products. We all know about velcro. I like to imagine that the wheel was invented after observing a pill bug (armadilldiidae).
Clearly, Nature is one of the biggest inspirations for technology development, but I contend that there is also a very influential Middle-Man to inspiration– that being Science-Fiction.I say middle-man, because of course, most science-fiction took its inspiration from natural observations, as well.Point being, the title slide image for this article (Virginia Tech's MARS Spider) immediately hit me as one of the spider robots in Steven Spielberg's Minority Report starring Tom Cruise.Remember the scene after he had is eyeballs transplanted, and was being chased by spider-bot tracking drones, as he hid underwater in a bathtub-? That scene always ran chills down my spine, contemplating future tech-apps, and this article instantly gave me the same recall!
Beth, I also noticed that most of these were from university labs and R&D. Although several of them, like Boston Dynamics's machines, are funded by the military, some others appear to be highly theoretical, like a few examples from Virginia Tech.
Jim, I think you've got a very important point there. I had a similar reaction to the Virginia Tech MARS robot. I think a great deal of what we're seeing in robot design, especially some of the weirder military and biomimicry types, is from the fertile imaginations of sci-fi fans, whether their inspiration comes from the old pulp days, or 50s TV serials (like I grew up on), or later movies. Now that (good quality) CGI is practically indistinguishable from reality in movies, we'll probably see even more.
What a great, great slideshow. Admittedly, I have trouble imagining some of applications for these robots. In particular, I'm wondering: Do we know what the civilian applications for the Robojelly, Ann?
Beth, I must say that you get to write about the coolest things. Whether these designs are ultimately practical or not, I think it's good for the collective knowledge base of mankind to understand how biological systems work, by attempting to imitate them. In essence humans are participating in a sort of "evolution" by developing various physical and mechanical systems which will eventually be culled out or advanced based on their ability to survive the environments they are subject to (including economic environments!). I can't wait to see what's next.
I think this is one of those areas where the final application may not be known by the team working on the initial concept. It reminds of when I was a kid and building with Legos. My mom would ask what I was buiilding and I'd answer, "I don't know yet." It'll be neat to see how some of these robots can be used for the betterment of humanity.
In college I interviewed for a job in the engineering lab with a team that was big into developing nureal networks and it was really neat to see what they were doing, creating software that an solve problems and learn. That was a few years ago and I can't even imagine all of the progress they have made.
In a line of ultra-futuristic projects, DARPA is developing a brain microchip that will help heal the bodies and minds of soldiers. A final product is far off, but preliminary chips are already being tested.
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