Salamandra robotica II moves swiftly on both land and water


March 20, 2013

The Salamandra robotica II is the latest model of an amphibious robot that can walk, crawl, and swim just like a salamander (Photo Credit: Kostas Karakasiliotis, Biorobotics Laboratory, EPFL)

The Salamandra robotica II is the latest model of an amphibious robot that can walk, crawl, and swim just like a salamander (Photo Credit: Kostas Karakasiliotis, Biorobotics Laboratory, EPFL)

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Scientists have often taken inspiration from the animal world in robotic designs, with bots modeled after fish, sandfish lizards, and even sea turtles. Such biomimicry makes sense – if you want a robot to move a certain way, why not look to creatures that already can? With the Salamandra robotica II, researchers have tried to replicate the movement of a salamander in designing a robot that can walk or crawl on land as easily as it swims in the water.

Salamanders are known for their ability to transition from walking on land with their legs to swimming in water by undulating their whole body like a fish. The design team at the Biorobotics Laboratory of École Polytechnique Fédérale de Lausanne (EPFL) in Switzerland created the amphibious Salamandra bot to better understand how one animal can change its movements so seamlessly.

To do this, the group had to essentially build a mock-up of a salamander's vertebrae and limbs that could alter its stance depending on whether it was traversing in water or not. Walking is simply handled by rotating the limbs, but reproducing the wave-like swimming motions requires a system of coupled nonlinear oscillators. A human controller can then use a laptop to wirelessly issue commands to an on-board microcontroller to change its motion, speed, and direction. The result is the first robot that's equally capable of swimming like a fish, crawling like a snake, and walking like a lizard.

The Salamandra robotica II is actually the latest model of a prototype that was developed back in 2007. This newest version includes several improvements, such as a faster swimming speed, foldable limbs, and enhanced microcontrollers that better simulate neural pathways and muscle coordination. The researchers hope the upgraded motion will help in developing more amphibious robots that can travel over land and water equally, which could eventually become a valuable tool for search and rescue operations.

Salamandra robotica II is scheduled to be a guest of honor at Innorobo 2013, a robotics exhibition that runs from March 19 - 21 in Lyon, France. Check out the short video below to see how it swims from a lake and walks right onto the shore.

Source: EPFL

About the Author
Jonathan Fincher Jonathan grew up in Norway, China, and Trinidad before graduating film school and becoming an online writer covering green technology, history and design, as well as contributing to video game news sites like Filefront and 1Up. He currently resides in Texas, where his passions include video games, comics, and boring people who don't want to talk about either of those things. All articles by Jonathan Fincher

I don't see the potential efficiency as outweighing the additional complexity necessary to get it.


Leave it to "slowburn"... so,how is YOUR robot building going?

Personally, I have designed,built,worked on and refined numerous amphibious vehicles and this is far simper than anything that I have seen as far as the number of moving parts required for mobility.

Even the automatic or autonomous control system would be simplistic.

How is it complicated??

Compare it with DARPA's "robot snake" on YouTube and you will see how complicated it ISN'T.

There are essentially two mechanical "hinge"-joints per body segment- the "legs" have no joints.

The tail only has a connection joint- that in itself is the essence of simplification.

It surely has A LOT less moving parts than a salamander's basic moving structure- this is much better and workable design than many robots I have seen.

This is actually a valid design for a vehicle for extreme conditions- it even looks like a windshield on the front!

If this is built light enough it could go farther with less trouble than most track machines in swampy conditions- the flat-bottom would make for easy recovery if necessary and the redundant joint design would make for easy servicing.

I get it- that's what I see!

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