Everybody loves robots. They make funny noises, work really hard to perform simple tasks of questionable benefit, and are often charmingly skeletal-looking (well, to people who are charmed by skeletons, at least).
An article in the latest issue of The Economist contemplates the future of robots. Designers and engineers are moving away from human-like robots with fantastically technical names like Widgetophora and Anthropoidea, and towards animal-esque robots, or Zoomorpha, that can perform more complex and nuanced tasks. After all, what's the point of making a robot that can perform tasks already performed by humans? The new line of robots also allow researchers to study patterns of behavior in animals they previously understood very little about.
It's a great read, and perhaps a prescient glance into the future. With pictures! Some examples of what these new wave robots can do, and what scientists expect to learn from them:
• A robot designed to mimic an octopus can go underwater and shut off leaking oil valves on oil rigs that are inaccessible to other robots
• A robot designed like a lamprey is fitted with camera eyes for underwater exploration, and help scientists understand underwater propulsion
• The StickyBotIII, a robot gecko, can help scientists understand the electrostatic phenomenon that allows geckos to walk up walls and on ceilings
• The Shrewbot, a robotic shrew, has hypersensitive whiskers that allow it to gather information dark places...like a smoke-filled buildings
• The DelFly, a robot dragonfly, has the ability to hover, allowing it to access tight spaces and capture images with a fitted camera
Read the story and see some of these new robots over at Economist.com.