Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:

 

Robots, the bizarre and the beautiful

01.10.2008
The future is a foreign country, and nowhere is it more foreign that the designs thrown up by a surge in robotics research. The feverish imagination and creativity of European robot scientists has led to dozens of robot designs, some bizarre, some beautiful, but all are inspired.

In Europe, as the rest of the world, there is a surge in robotics development, reflected in part by the European Network of Robotic Research (EURON), an EU-funded network of excellence that completed its work in 2008.

Robotic designs can take any shape or form and, given the rich and diverse imagination of European scientists and engineers, they often do. Designers take inspiration anywhere they can, from a bare approach that stems from a desire for raw functionality to learning from the biological diversity of nature.

The robots attached to the EURON network (see related articles), for instance, reflect every conceivable type, from the bizarre, to the beautiful, to the truly inspired.

“Nature is a rich source of design ideas,” notes Bruno Siciliano, robotics researcher and dissemination officer for EURON. “Nature has already solved a lot of the problems that robotics researchers encounter, so it is a good place to go for ideas.”

Robot imitating life

Biomimetics, or mimicking biological systems, is a very popular approach in European robotics and has led to a host of unusual designs. Take, for example, the Robot Fish developed by researchers in the UK’s University of Essex. It looks like a real carp and is often mistaken for one.

The fish can move 20 inches a second and, at slower speeds, has a battery that will last five hours. The researchers built three fish as an attraction for the London Aquarium, where they have proved a very popular feature.

But ultimately the design could be used for seabed exploration, to study pipelines for leaks, or even be used for intelligence gathering. The fish can avoid obstacles and swim entirely independently. The researchers hope to increase the robot’s intelligence so that it can hook itself up to a power source when it is time for a recharge.

“Sure, it would be possible to design a standard submarine robot to do similar jobs, but by replicating the designs from nature, researchers can use the advantages of that design. In the case of fish, they move through the water easily, without using much energy. As the design of robot fish improves, it will approach that level of efficiency.”

Snakes and spiders

The Anna Konda is a snake-like robot that can also avoid obstacles and put out fires. The robot moves like a snake using hydraulics and is, the designers believe, both the biggest and strongest snake in the world, and the only one powered by hydraulics.

The advantage of the snake is that it can move through small spaces, it is extremely flexible and a comparatively simple design, though at 3 metres long and 70kg it deserves its moniker as the heftiest of all snakes. It was designed by SINTEF in Norway.

Spiders, too, have provided a rich seam of inspiration for researchers. The Fraunhofer Institute for Intelligent Analysis and Information Systems in Sankt Augustin has designed three, the Amos, Morpheus and TED.

The systems are designed as experimental platforms for neural perception and networking, an essential element of multi-legged systems, but if these problems are solved, they open the prospect of highly mobile, stable robots that can traverse a wide variety of terrains – even stairs – without difficulty.

Games robots play

Robots offer the potential to create new gaming and entertainment platforms, too. One of the most successful commercial robots of all time – Sony’s Aibo – was designed primarily for entertainment.

In the games domain, foozball (table football) has proved a popular choice among researchers. In each case, a robot controls one side of the game and the human player competes against the robot. It is more than just fun, though, because designing an effective robot foozball player demands very rapid processing and fast reaction motors. It is a profoundly difficult problem but, once solved, it can feed into the wider stream of robotics research.

Education toys like the Robota dolls – a family of mini humanoid robots – can engage in complex interaction with humans, involving speech, vision and body imitation. The Robota dolls have been around since 1997, but new prototypes are in constant development at the Ecole Polytechnique Federale de Lausanne in Switzerland.

Finally, a robot that looks perhaps oddest of all, the e-Puck, is a very small, disc-like robot platform designed to allow labs to conduct experiments. And, yes, it looks like a hockey puck.

e-Puck contains sound sensors, proximity sensors, a camera, Bluetooth communication and accelerometer; all in a tiny robot with the same volume as a computer mouse. It is an incredibly flexible platform.

There are many other robot designs under investigation in Europe, including a wide range of robotic vehicles, like cars and airplanes.

One thing is certain, the ceaseless imagination of engineers and scientists will continue to create bizarre and beautiful robotic entities.

Many of the robots mentioned in this article have received funding from various European programmes.

This is the final of a four-part special series of features exploring European robotics research, from humanoids friends, to functional home help, to just plain odd-bots.

Christian Nielsen | alfa
Further information:
http://cordis.europa.eu/ictresults
http://cordis.europa.eu/ictresults/index.cfm/section/news/tpl/article/BrowsingType/Features/ID/90053

More articles from Information Technology:

nachricht Drones learn to navigate autonomously by imitating cars and bicycles
23.01.2018 | Universität Zürich

nachricht Cloud technology: Dynamic certificates make cloud service providers more secure
15.01.2018 | Technische Universität München

All articles from Information Technology >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

Die letzten 5 Focus-News des innovations-reports im Überblick:

Im Focus: Optical Nanoscope Allows Imaging of Quantum Dots

Physicists have developed a technique based on optical microscopy that can be used to create images of atoms on the nanoscale. In particular, the new method allows the imaging of quantum dots in a semiconductor chip. Together with colleagues from the University of Bochum, scientists from the University of Basel’s Department of Physics and the Swiss Nanoscience Institute reported the findings in the journal Nature Photonics.

Microscopes allow us to see structures that are otherwise invisible to the human eye. However, conventional optical microscopes cannot be used to image...

Im Focus: Artificial agent designs quantum experiments

On the way to an intelligent laboratory, physicists from Innsbruck and Vienna present an artificial agent that autonomously designs quantum experiments. In initial experiments, the system has independently (re)discovered experimental techniques that are nowadays standard in modern quantum optical laboratories. This shows how machines could play a more creative role in research in the future.

We carry smartphones in our pockets, the streets are dotted with semi-autonomous cars, but in the research laboratory experiments are still being designed by...

Im Focus: Scientists decipher key principle behind reaction of metalloenzymes

So-called pre-distorted states accelerate photochemical reactions too

What enables electrons to be transferred swiftly, for example during photosynthesis? An interdisciplinary team of researchers has worked out the details of how...

Im Focus: The first precise measurement of a single molecule's effective charge

For the first time, scientists have precisely measured the effective electrical charge of a single molecule in solution. This fundamental insight of an SNSF Professor could also pave the way for future medical diagnostics.

Electrical charge is one of the key properties that allows molecules to interact. Life itself depends on this phenomenon: many biological processes involve...

Im Focus: Paradigm shift in Paris: Encouraging an holistic view of laser machining

At the JEC World Composite Show in Paris in March 2018, the Fraunhofer Institute for Laser Technology ILT will be focusing on the latest trends and innovations in laser machining of composites. Among other things, researchers at the booth shared with the Aachen Center for Integrative Lightweight Production (AZL) will demonstrate how lasers can be used for joining, structuring, cutting and drilling composite materials.

No other industry has attracted as much public attention to composite materials as the automotive industry, which along with the aerospace industry is a driver...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>

Anzeige

Anzeige

Event News

10th International Symposium: “Advanced Battery Power – Kraftwerk Batterie” Münster, 10-11 April 2018

08.01.2018 | Event News

See, understand and experience the work of the future

11.12.2017 | Event News

Innovative strategies to tackle parasitic worms

08.12.2017 | Event News

 
Latest News

Rutgers scientists discover 'Legos of life'

23.01.2018 | Life Sciences

Seabed mining could destroy ecosystems

23.01.2018 | Earth Sciences

Transportable laser

23.01.2018 | Physics and Astronomy

VideoLinks Science & Research
Overview of more VideoLinks >>>