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Initially designed to collect footage for a documentary on wildlife along the Nile River, the lifelike robots are being developed for monitoring purposes
December 26, 2023
A pair of reptilian robots designed for a BBC documentary in 2016 are being investigated for their efficacy in studying marine life and to aid in disaster efforts.
Designed by roboticists from three Swiss establishments; KM-RoBoTa Sàrl, École Polytechnique Fédérale de Lausanne and Verity AG, the robots were created to mimic a crocodile and a lizard, with cameras embedded into the design to enable camouflaged surveillance of wildlife.
According to the engineers, the robots were designed to walk and swim in harsh, natural environments, as well as move and look like the real animals on which they were modeled.
“These robots…fell at the intersection of our interests in developing robots to study animals and robots for disaster response and other missions in challenging environments,” the team wrote in a paper.
“The robots needed to be designed on the basis of a systematic study of data on the model specimens, be fabricated rapidly and be reliable and robust enough to handle what the wild would throw at them.”
The initial design is now informing work on disaster response robotics and biorobotics “for challenging amphibious scenarios.” The team says the robots could be released into the wild to collect informative data on animal habits and movements.
The robots could also be used for surveillance and search and rescue purposes during disaster response, assessing the degree of danger and damage to keep front-line workers safe.
To expand the robots’ applications, the team has made several upgrades, including making the robots look more like their real-life counterparts, improving mobility and enhancing their run time so they can operate for longer in the wild.
“Disaster response activities … often require human rescuers to trudge over complex, unstructured terrain, hazardous debris and rubble in dynamically changing environments, risking their lives,” the team said. “Robots that can negotiate such complex environments could replace or augment human and rescue dog teams in a number of these tasks.
“Working toward machines that can imitate the morphology and robust locomotion of certain animals, while providing reliable data from specialized sensors in real time, is widely thought to be a way forward.”
Assistant Editor, IoT World Today
Scarlett Evans is the assistant editor for IoT World Today, with a particular focus on robotics and smart city technologies. Scarlett has previous experience in minerals and resources with Mine Australia, Mine Technology and Power Technology. She joined Informa in April 2022.
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