Monday, February 28, 2011

Animal robots

Soon there will be a BigCat to complement (or outdo) BigDog. As you may remember (and as my sister brought to my attention a couple of years ago), BigDog (2nd image, video here) is the name of a rather creepy 240lb, 2 1/2' tall robot created under contract for the U.S. military by Boston Dynamics. Designed to carry soldiers’ loads for them across the battlefield, surefooted BigDog traverses rocks, mud, shallow water, and snow; runs at 4mph; climbs 35-degree slopes; and hauls more than its own weight - all while maintaining perfect balance.

The "cheetah-bot" is a 4-legged robot designed by Boston Dynamics with a flexible spine and an articulated head. It will run at 35mph with the agility to make tight turns and stop on a dime, allowing it to chase and evade by zigzagging. The cheetah concept design (1st image) may have something the final product may not: a tail.

Two other animal-inspired robots do have tails. RiSE, Boston Dynamics' bug-like climbing robot (video here), uses micro-claws to scale textured vertical terrain such as walls, trees, and fences. Military contractor AeroVironment has developed the Nano Hummingbird, with a wingspan of 6.5" and a weight of only 2/3 oz., which can travel in all directions and hover in midair. Not only does it have a tail, the hummingbird has eyes (video here)...

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