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R o b o t s t h a t I m i t a t e L i v i n g T h i n g s 2 7
Like areas, contaminated with radioactivity and deep space, the depths of the sea are dangerous places for human beings. Improvements in electronics and computer technology have let us construct robots that can work in such places. Eventually, this Discipline leads to form a branch of science in its own right—robotics. These days, those who work with robotics have a new concept on their agenda: biomimeticrobotics. Scientists and engineers engaged in robotics now believe that designing robots for a particular task isn't very practical. They consider it easier and make better sense to build robots that imitate the features and abilities of living things, indigenous to the environments where these robots are to be employed.
A book called Neuro-technology for Biomimetic Robots contains the following information on this subject:
“Biomimetic robots differ from traditional robots in that they are agile, relatively cheap, and able to deal with real-world environments. The engineering of these robots requires a thorough understanding of the biological systems on which they are based, at both the biomechanical and physiological levels.
... The ultimate goal is to develop a truly autonomous robot, one able to navigate and interact with its environment solely on the basis of sensory feedback without prompting from a human operator”.
For those engaged in robotics, one of the problems they encounter most frequently is maintaining equilibrium. Even robots equipped with the very latest
Robots that Imitate Living Things
Imitating Human Hand:
Imitating Snakes to Overcome Balance Problems:
The main thing which led scientists to imitate living things was their flawless physical designs. Engineer Hans J. Schnabel, designer of the robotic device known as the Karlsruhe Hand, stated that the more he worked on robotic hands, the more he admired the human hand.
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technology can lose their balance when walking. A three year-old child can manage to regain balance with no difficulty, yet robots lacking this ability are, of necessity, stationary and of very little use. In fact, one robot that NASA prepared for duty on the planet Mars couldn’t be used at all, for that very reason. After that, robot experts abandoned attempts to build a balance establishing mechanism and instead looked to a creature that never loses its balance—the snake. Unlike other vertebrates, snakes lack a hard spine and limbs, and have been created in such a way as to enter cracks and crevices. They can expand and contract the diameter of their bodies, and can glide over rocks. Snakes’ properties inspired for a new robotic, interplanetary probe developed by NASA's Ames Research Center which they called the "snakebot." This robot thus was thus designed to be in a constant state of balance, without ever getting caught up by obstacles.
Joseph Ayers, Director of the Marine Science Center at Northeastern University in Boston is leading a project to develop a robot that imitates the lobster. As he describes it, the project’s “technical goal is to capture the performance advantages that the animal systems hold in the target environment.”
In the United States, Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) is working to develop a robot scorpion. The reason the project selected a scorpion as its model is that the robot was to operate in the desert. Scorpions have been able to survive harsh desert conditions ever since their creation. But another reason why DARPA selected a scorpion was that along with being able to move over tough terrain very easily, its reflexes are much simpler than those of mammals—and can be imitated.
Robot that Imitates Lobster:
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These small lizards are able to run very fast up walls and walk around clinging to the ceiling. Now, years of research have finally uncovered the secret on which their extraordinary ability depends. Little steps by the gecko have led to enormous discoveries with tremendous implications, particularly for robot designers. A few can be summarized as follows:
- Gecko-like robots could be used to repair cracks in ships, bridges and in the regular maintenance of satellites.
- Robots modeled after the geckos’ feet could be used to wash windows clean floors, and ceilings. Not only will they be able to climb up flat vertical surfaces, but overcome any obstacles they meet on the way.
Lobster robot, scientists expect it to help in finding mines
Gecko and Gecko like robot