Just Because Robots Are Cool

And also a little scary, but I think it’s important to stay abreast of all advances in robot technology. Just so I know how advanced they’re getting (and so I’ll know when to start building my bunker and stocking it full of the size 10 cans of dried foods available in the “Emergency Preparedness” section of the local grocery stores- I shit you not, that’s totally a thing here).

But despite what I think is a very reasonable fear of my future robot overlords, I am utterly fascinated by robotics.

Scientists (despite all the sci-fi books and films depicting humanoid robots rising up and taking over the world) have been trying for a very long time to creating human-sized robots capable of doing tasks like make a bed, prepare a meal, or dig a ditch. One of the biggest problems they run into, though, is that current robots do not function well on soft or shifting (like sand or loose dirt) surfaces. Hard, flat surfaces? No problem. Carpet, grass, or the beach? Well… that’s another story.

And so, being thwarted by nature, scientists have decided to study their enemy to find a clue as to how to overcome it. And lo, they came across an idea- while watching lizards run across the ground.

Folks at the Georgia Institute of Technology have come up with some exciting new predictive algorithms that help compensate for ground shift/flow. They then built a six-legged “lizardbot” using a 3-D printer to test these predictions. The little robots was able to scamper across sand just like a real lizard:

“It was our first attempt [at building a robot based the new algorithms] and we’re happy it works,” said biophysicist Daniel Goldman.

Like most advances in robotics, this is a small achievement that will (hopefully) pave the way for further advancements and research. Bit by bit, scientists are figuring out how to mimic the movement of a variety of animals. This is opening the door to more complex robotic creatures in the future.

In fact, Goldman and his team hope the lizardbot’s predictive models will serve as a big step toward putting legged robots on Mars.

That’s good- Curiosity and Opportunity could use some company.

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