Despite what our science fiction-fueled imaginations love to be
entertained with, there is more to the field of modern robotics than colossal combat machines or bionic baristas.
Some projects may seem mundane by comparison, yet the results are no
less impressive, especially the ones that enlighten through the process.
Although it took a few trial and error attempts, scientists have
finally created an insect-inspired robot that can jump off of water's
Researchers from the University of California, San Diego (UCSD) are taking inspiration from nature in the search for new materials that could one day be used to create body armor. The study, supported by the US Air Force, focuses on the unique structure and strength of the hexagonally-scaled shell of the boxfish.
Humanity's industrial processes have a huge impact on the and, releasing harmful substances such as mercury, arsenic and lead into the water. Chinese researchers are hoping that synthetic coral that mimics the ability of the real thing to collect harmful heavy metals from water could help in the clean up effort, with tests on the effectiveness of the aluminum oxide structure so far showing promising results.
The ability of mussels to stubbornly bind themselves to underwater surfaces has intrigued scientists for years. If this ability could be recreated in the lab, it could lead to new adhesives for all kinds of applications. A team of Korean scientists has now developed a surgical glue inspired by these natural wonders that's claimed to be cheaper, more reliable and incur less scarring than existing solutions.
If you're enjoying a serene natural area, you might not appreciate
seeing a very techy-looking pollution-hunting robot putting along the
surface. That's why scientists at the National University of Singapore
have developed an alternative – water-quality-monitoring robots that
look like swans.
Besides simply being fascinating to watch, insect-inspired robots may
someday find use as scouts in search-and-rescue operations. In order
for them to function in such scenarios, however, they'll have to be able
to move through fields of debris. While some scientists have looked at
using sensors and algorithms that let the bots scan their surroundings
and then plot paths around obstacles, researchers at UC Berkley have
developed a much less complex but still effective approach – they've
outfitted a robotic cockroach with a streamlined shell, that lets it
just push its way through.
If you had to grasp a tiny delicate object such as a blood vessel, doing
so with traditional tweezers would be a very painstaking process – just
a little too much pressure, and the object could be crushed. Instead,
scientists from Iowa State University have developed miniature coiling
tentacles for doing the job. They're even capable of holding an ant
without harming it.
While robots can be designed to be faster or stronger than animals, it's rare to meet a robot that's as resilient as an animal in the wild after it's been injured. Animals adapt to survive and researchers from France and the US are developing robots that can keep working even after receiving major damage.
The last time we heard from the researchers working on MIT's robotic cheetah project, they had untethered their machine to let it bound freely across the campus lawns. Wireless and with a new spring in its step, the robot hit speeds of 10 mph (16 km/h) and could jump 13 in (33 cm) into the air. The quadrupedal robot has now been given another upgrade in the form of a LIDAR system and special algorithms, allowing it to detect and leap over obstacles in its path.
Starting in April 2011, the European Union CoCoRo (Collective Cognitive
Robots) research consortium has been developing three varieties of
autonomous underwater robots that school together like fish. By doing
so, the little bots can share and learn from each others' "knowledge" of
their environment, acting as a collective cognitive system that's
smarter than any one of its individual parts.