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The Science of Biomimicry: Cool Robots Inspired by Nature

 We at BabaMail are amazed by the newest scientific innovations. That’s exactly why these amazing robots immediately caught our attention, as they combine ours and our readers’ love for both nature and science.

We have written about Boston Dynamics quite a bit (here is a link to our latest article about their robots), and we mentioned that their designs were inspired by our fluffy four-legged friend, the dog. But it turns out that there is a whole subdiscipline in robotics called biomimicry that takes the amazing capabilities of different animals and tries to replicate them to teach their robots these intricate skills.

The results are surprising! There’s a bat robot that flies and uses sonar to avoid obstacles, as well as a tiny robo-bee that can both fly and swim... Here is a list of our favorite animal-inspired robots, each containing a short video of the robot in action.

The Squid Rover   

Firmly moving towards an explorative mission of Europa, Jupiter’s moon that is completely covered by an icy ocean, NASA had to rethink the design of the Mars rover.

Their solution is a probe that looks like a squid capable of harnessing energy from magnetic fields, as light is very scarce underneath the icy crust of Europa.

The robot has electrodynamic tentacles that will let it move through the water or along the surface of the moon in search of important video content and possibly even alien life.

The RoboBee

This next robot may be tiny, but it’s easily one of the most useful and important ones on this list. Harvard engineers created robotic bees about half the size of a paperclip weighing less than one-tenth of a gram. 

Nearly a 10-year project, the RoboBee is already very advanced, so much so they have exceeded their biological counterparts, in a way. They can dive into the water from the air and continue their way underwater using the same wings. These robobees can be used for a variety of purposes: from pollinating flowers to monitoring the environment, biological studies, and even search and rescue operations.

Stickybot III

The next animal-inspired robot originating from the Stanford school of engineering has features very similar to that of a gecko. Like the gecko, this machine has sticky feet that enable it to cling to and climb up different kinds of surfaces: glass, metal and even wood.

The Stickybot also has a tail that helps with the distribution of weight during climbing. If it weren’t for the tail, only his front legs would maintain the grip necessary to climb upwards and the robot would fall. Isn’t it surprising how the presence of a few different body features is crucial to an animal’s special abilities?

The MantaDroid

Researchers at the National University of Singapore built a drone that is capable of surviving and maintaining a steady pace even in the roughest of waters, the MantaDroid.

As the name suggests, their design was inspired by the manta ray. The robot is autonomous, it can run for 10 hours without recharging and can be equipped with a camera, which is a promising alternative to self-propelling underwater surveillance drones that are way slower and less efficient.

SCRATCHbot

Rats are often thought of as pests, but they have actually aided human innovation countless times. The robot built by Bristol Robotics Laboratory is just one more example of rats propelling humans to create something new and exciting.

The SCRATCHbot took rats’ extraordinary capability to perceive the world with their whiskers with extreme accuracy, studied it by watching countless slowed-down videos of rats, and simulated rats’ whiskers and their movements with this robot. These robots are very compact and can get into narrow spaces humans can’t, so the robot can potentially be very useful.

SoFi

Underwater life exploration is one of the most challenging tasks for scientists, as animals that live underwater try to avoid humans and most robots at all costs, but not this one. A soft robotic fish, affectionately called SoFi, may be the solution for this challenge.

Scientists at MIT enveloped the robot into a silicone and rubber shell for it to remain waterproof as well as to blend in with the environment. The result is a robot that is virtually indistinguishable from a real fish, at least by fish.
It can move through the water in all directions for extended periods of time and film the nature with a camera lens built into its head.

Bat Bot

Caltech researchers developed a robot that can fly by flapping its wings like a bat. It weighs only 93 grams, and thus it is more efficient than its drone counterparts. The wings of the robot are made of silicone, which is very flexible making it significantly more difficult for the bat drone to break as well.

VelociRoach

Cockroaches may not strike you as a very pleasant species to study, but the way they can move through space even in the most hazardous conditions is remarkable. This makes them potentially very useful in search and rescue operations or in the event of a disaster. 

That’s why the biomimetic lab at UC Berkeley developed several so-called ambulatory robots, some of which can even be a platform for a tiny drone. Others are extremely fast, the 54-gram VelociRoach robot can move at the speed of 4.9 m/s!

Robird

There is no such thing as too many flying robots, so welcome Robird, an amazing invention that is already used to protect and control bird populations. How does this small robot do it, you might ask.

Well, because it looks and behaves just like a predatory bird, the Robird that comes in both an eagle and peregrine falcon versions scares away whole bird populations from an area. It is already used to clear the path from birds for planes to be able to take off safely, as well as to keep birds away from industrial areas and fields.

H/T: digit.indigitaltrends.com

Image source: Neilc314

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