Bio bots: robots that mimic animal physiology

A new generation of machines is being created, often with complex purposes in mind


Last week, Nasa announced that it is developing robotic bees to gather information about areas of Mars that wouldn’t be accessible to a Mars rover. The bots could detect, for example, methane, a possible sign of life.

Dog lead: the canine-inspired SpotMini.
 Dog lead: the canine-inspired SpotMini. Photograph: Boston Dynamics


Boston Dynamics’ latest robot resembles a dog with an arm where its head should be. It recently demonstrated it can use the arm for the complex (in robot terms) action of opening a door, despite the intervention of man with a hockey stick.

Ray of hope: the aquatic MantaDroid.
 Flexible friend: the aquatic MantaDroid. Photograph: National University of Singapore,


Designed by Singaporean researchers, this bot swims like a manta ray. Its fins are flexible, giving it the ability to glide through turbulent seas. The team hopes that the bot could prove useful for underwater searches and gathering marine data.

Twist in the tale: Snakebot has been used on earthquake sites.
 Twist in the tale: Snakebot has been used on earthquake sites. Photograph: Carnegie Mellon University


Researchers at Carnegie Mellon University’s biorobotics lab have designed a series of non-lethal reptilian robots. Snakebots have been used to search sewers and earthquake sites and by surgeons to explore normally inaccessible sites.

 Soft launch: Harvard’s Octobot. Photograph: Harvard Wyss Institute


Like its inspiration the octopus, this bot from Harvard’s Wyss Institute doesn’t feature any solid components. Underneath its silicone skin, chemical reactions between 3D-printed chambers power the pneumatic movement of its tentacles.


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