Scientists in Switzerland have created a robot that can walk, crawl or even swim like a real-life salamander. This is the most accurate robotic salamander designed to date.
Swiss scientists have created a robot that replicates a real-life salamander to near perfection. The robot, named “Pleurobot,” has been designed after extensively studying the salamander’s body structure: bones, joints and nervous system. That’s why the new robot can walk, crawl or even swim like a real salamander. The robot has been named after Pleurodeles waltl – a salamander species endemic to the Iberian Peninsula and Morocco which has tubercles on each side of its body.
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This is not the first time when scientists from the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology in Lausanne (EPFL) have built a salamander robot. However, they have not been able to touch this level of perfection before. Scientists have used X-ray videos of salamanders from the top as well as on the side to find how exactly the creature acts and tracked dozens of points along its skeletons while it was moving in water and on the land.
“What is new is really our approach to building Pleurobot. It involves striking a balance between designing a simplified bone structure and replicating the salamander's gait in three dimensions.” Auke Ijspeert who led the project said.
Despite having an apparently complex structure, the robot salamander is based on a simple mechanism with 3D printed bones and several joints which ensure free up and down and side to side salamander-like movement.
“Animal locomotion is an inherently complex process. Modern tools like cineradiography, 3D printing, and fast computing help us draw closer and closer to understanding and replicating it.” Kostas Karakasilliotis who designed the prior versions of the robotic salamander said.
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The purpose of creating these kinds of robots is generally two-fold. Drawing inspiration from real animals and building robots to accomplish outdoor mechanical tasks such as squeezing through small spaces, walking on difficult terrains and providing assistance in rescue missions. These robots can also help understand the evolution of vertebrate locomotion and how amphibians modulate and control their movements.