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Here are three strange little robots named and modeled after real organisms that might seem on the surface to be pointlessly weird, but all three were developed to mimic nature and serve a purpose.

The Sand Flea: A Jumping Robot

The Sand Flea is a tiny 4 wheeled Robot built by Boston Dynamics that moves around like an RC car, but can jump pretty high on it’s own.

Sand Flea is an 11 pound robot that drives like an RC car on flat terrain, but can jump 30 ft into the air to overcome obstacles. That is high enough to jump over a compound wall, onto the roof of a house, up a set of stairs or into a second story window. –Boston Dynamics

This was developed by Boston Dynamics with funding from DARPA (Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency). So I imagine the plan is to strap some c4 to this thing and bounce it into a bunker while everyone is looking out for UAVs…

Sand Flea Specs:

  • Controllable hop height, 1-8 m
  • Controllable launch angle
  • Precision hops through windows or doors, on to tables, up staircases, on to or off of roofs or balconies
  • Piston actuator
  • Laser-based ranging to guide launch
  • Operator control unit (OCU) with live video feed for remote operation
  • Robot and OCU both fit into a small backpack

Festo Dragon Fly

Unmanned Aerial Vehicles are all the rage these days. But while everyone is agog about multicopters, here’s a refreshing step backwards (or forwards?) along the evolutionary path of flight.

Festo Dragonfly UAV
Festo Dragonfly UAV

At 44-centimetres long and with a wingspan of 63 centimetres, the robot is extraordinarily lightweight, clocking in at just 175 grams. Using eight servo motors, it has 13 degrees of freedom — nine in the wings, and four in the head and tail — and a wing-beat frequency of 15 to 20 hertz. This allows it the same manoeuvrability as an actual dragonfly, able to move in all directions and hover just like the insect. CNET.com.au

Festo Dragonfly Robot mechanical
Festo Dragonfly Robot mechanical

With the BionicOpter, Festo has technically mastered the highly complex flight characteristics of the dragonfly. Just like its model in nature, this ultralight flying object can fly in all directions, hover in mid-air and glide without beating its wings. –Festo

Jellyfish Underwater Spy Robot

If I were to make a list of biological organisms that probably would never see their face in a robot design, jelly fish would be near the top. But I’d be wrong yet again.

Virginia Tech: Autonomous Robotic Jellyfish from virginiatech on Vimeo.

Meet the Cyro, an autonomous robot with eight mechanical legs ringing its metal chassis, designed to mimic the unique, efficient underwater propulsion of a jellyfish. Covered in silicone to replicate the jellyfish’s wavy, bioluminescent mesoglea — the jelly, basically — the Cyro weighs a staggering 170 pounds, all thanks to a five-year grant from the Office of Naval Research. –Wired Magazine

What strange robots can you imagine?

Engineers are really challenging the old school notion of what a robot is,what a robot does and what a robot looks like. My son plays with my Gang-Of-5 Radicon Robot that basically a tool box with a head, and we watch Star Trek TNG where Data is a very un-imaginative humanoid robot.

Have you seen any robots weirder than these? Can you imagine one? Post a comment and let me know.

-Mike

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