Nature has provided numerous ideas and inspirations to engineers throughout the history of robotics. They learned from nature and applied more straightforward and more effective biological designs to real-world applications. Through close collaborations between biologists and robotics experts, bio-inspired robotics studies biological systems to identify mechanisms that can solve problems in the engineering field. Our attempt to mimic animals has resulted in many technological advances that have revolutionized how human-made machines move through the air, water, and land. In this article, we’re going to look at 20 such animal-inspired robots.
MIRO – Biomimetic aquarium robot fish
MIRO (Marine Intelligence Robot) is the world’s first commercialized biomimetic aquarium fish robot, developed by the South Korean company AIRO Inc. It has two motors and four distance measurement sensors that allow the robot to swim in all directions, avoid obstacles and dive to depths of up to 50 meters, almost the same as real fish. The fish can operat with remote control or can swim in autonomous mode with around 50 different swimming patterns. When it is fully charged, the MIRO could swim for 12 hours without stopping. AIRO uses a 3D modeling program to produce different skin types to mimic fish such as carp, Arowana, shark, etc. Two models — MIRO-9 (53 cm) and MIRO 7 (35 cm) — are currently available on the market.
Robugtix T8X – Robot spider
Robugtix T8X is a bio-inspired 3D print spider robot developed by Robugtix. This big remote-controlled bug can move like a real spider with an inverse kinematics algorithm, coordinating all its leg servos. T8X is the only robot on the market that combines so much resemblance to a real spider with subtle movements, programmability, and customizability. It is rechargeable, programmable and wireless, allowing users to remotely control its 26 leg motors (two in each leg and two in the abdomen). It is powered by the proprietary Bigfoot Robotics Engine to control multi-legged walking robots.
Bionic Bird – A flying pet
The bionic bird is an app-controlled drone flying like a flappy bird. It’s a super lightweight (9.3 g) furtive drone that’s connected to Bluetooth and controlled by your smartphone. Designed by the aeronautical engineer Edwin Van Ruymbeke, the French start-up XTIM launched Bionic Bird. It can easily maneuver in your living room, or you can fly outside within a 100-meter range. This bird flies at 12 mph on independent wings that beat 18 times per second, faster than most bird species. This drone can reach a speed up to 6.2 mph (20 km / h) and has a flight time of 10 minutes. It has a portable egg-shaper charger that powers this bird’s ultra-light battery. The battery is capable of charging in 12 minutes. Each drone comes with two spare wings and a pack of aluminum weights to balance each wing.
Pleurobot – Salamander-like robot
Pleurobot is a salamander-like robot that can both walk on the ground and swim in the water. Developed by the BioRob at EPFL and NCCR Robotics, Pleurobot has the articulated vertebrae of a salamander that allows it to pass through challenging terrain.
The developers recorded three-dimensional X-ray videos of salamanders and tracked up to 64 points on the animal skeleton, recording the three-dimensional movements of the bones in detail. By optimizing all of the recorded postures for the three gaits, the number and position of the active and passive joints required for the robot to reproduce animal movements in a reasonable three-dimensional accuracy were deduced. With its waterproof exterior and body parts, Pleurobot can go underwater just like a real-life lizard. In combination with a sophisticated neural network and individually controllable joints, the robot is a prime candidate for the support of search and rescue missions. Pleurobot’s design, with 27 degrees of freedom, enables more advanced mathematical models of the locomotive nervous system to be tested for higher motor skills.
Airacuda – Artificial fish
Airacuda is a remotely controlled pneumatically driven fish developed by Festo, an international developer of automation technology. Following its biological model in shape, movement, and design, the Airacuda is driven by a mechanical fin drive. Two fluidic muscles control the actions of the tail fin while two additional muscles control the steering. For sinking, the balance tank of Airacuda is filled with water. When the tank is emptied of water and filled with air, Airacuda rises to the surface of the water, much like a submarine. The Airacuda is capable of maneuvering using four actuators. Two fluidic muscles are used to control the fish, while two other muscles act on the tail fin in an S-shaped pattern. Airacuda’s waterproof head contains all electronic and pneumatic components. The hull has an internal balancing tank that can be flooded with either water or air.
Scorpion Hexapod is a six-legged robot that looks like a giant scorpion. Developed by three students from the University of Ghent, Belgium, it has 3D-printed body parts attached to the main body of a plastic plate. The robot moves multi-directionally and navigates obstacles using infrared sensor technology. The stinger works like a real scorpion, and the red pen tip stinger completes the effect. The robot relies on elastic strings to counter the gravity of its legs. A long-range IR sensor and three short-range sensors positioned in the upper shell are used to detect user proximity and a front-facing camera. You can program the robot to perform custom tricks.
AquaJellies – Autonomous jellyfish
AquaJelly is an artificial autonomous jellyfish with a watertight laser sintered body that contains a central electric motor, two lithium-ion polymer accumulator batteries, a charging control unit and a swashplate actuator. Its electrical drive unit and intelligent adaptive mechanism emulate swarming behavior. AquaJelly’s translucent hemispheric dome houses a ring control panel with integrated pressure, light and radio sensors. The orientation of the propulsion system is continuously monitored by the processor. The control board contains eight white and eight blue LEDs, which, together with the sensors, enable communication between several AquaJellies. Like their natural model, the AquaJellies glide elegantly and effortlessly through the water. The full recharging procedure takes about three hours.
Eelume – A snaky robot
Eelume is a snake-like, self-propelled robotic arm that can travel long distances and perform underwater inspections, maintenance and repairs in locations that are inaccessible to most ROVs. Developed by Eelume, it can dive 500 meters below the surface. It is designed to be either fully autonomous or capable of being remotely controlled by an operator. Eelume is permanently deployed underwater, housed at subsea docking stations. The vehicle itself is a handy robotic arm capable of operating tools and performing intervention tasks. Adaptable to a range of subsea operations, it can be mobilized 24/7 without the need for a surface vessel, making subsea operations safer, greener, and more cost-effective.
SpotMini – A dog-like robot
SpotMini is a dog-like robot that handles objects, climbs stairs, and operates in offices, homes, and outdoors. This four-legged, all-electric robot weighs 30 kg and can be charged for about 90 minutes, depending on what it does. It can pick up and handle objects with its 5-degree-free arm and enhanced perception sensors. The sensor suite includes stereo cameras, depth cameras, IMUs, and position/force sensors in the limbs. SpotMini performs some tasks independently, but often uses a human for high-level guidance. It can handle up to 14 kg of payloads.
BionicOpter – Robot dragonfly
BionicOpter is a robot dragonfly capable of maneuvering in all directions, floating in mid-air and gliding without beating its wings. Developed by the German pneumatic and electrical automation company Festo, BionicOpter has four wings attached to the carbon fiber frame. Complex motion sequences are handled by model software and electronics, leaving the operator only to worry about steering. From tip to tail, the robot dragonfly is 44 cm (17.3-inch) long, and the overall weight is only 175 g. The ARM microcontroller calculates all the parameters of the mechanical adjustment based on the input of the inertia, acceleration and position sensors, together with the pilot input, and then converts them into motion by acting on the servo motors. Powered by two LiPo cells, the model can be remotely controlled using a smartphone or digital spectrum transmitter with the 2.4 GHz wireless module.
Octobot – Soft-bodied autonomous octopus robot
Octobot is a 3D printed, soft-body, autonomous robot, shaped like a small octopus. Developed by Harvard researchers, it has an exterior silicone that mimics the squishy skin of the sea-faring octopus. The Octobot uses hydrogen peroxide as its primary source of energy and also contains a microfluidic logic circuit. Octobot can move on its own without the help of a battery or an electrical power source.
Robird – Bird drone
Clear Flight Solutions ‘ Robird is a drone that flaps its wings and scares birds out of the airport to stop them from straying into the flight paths of the aircraft. This 3D printed, hand-assembled, and remote-controlled drone is designed to mimic a raptor. It flaps its wings and steers using two tail fins. It can even glide through the air for periods, just as a stalking bird of prey would have done. It is combined with a pilot who knows what pattern birds use when hunting, to help them chase birds away.
MantaDroid – A manta ray robot
MantaDroid is a manta ray robot designed by researchers from the Department of Mechanical Engineering of the NUS, Singapore. This underwater, autonomous robot looks and swims like a manta ray, using only single engines and flexible fins to propel it through the water. The robot is capable of swimming at twice its body length per second for up to 10 hours without recharging. It can be equipped with a camera and used for underwater surveillance or hydrographic data collection. It can also be used to perform search operations, such as searching for lost divers or sunk objects in the sea.
Guardian S – Snake robot
Guardian S is a snake robot built by Utah-based robotics company Sarcos Robotics for surveillance and inspection work. This waterproof snakebot weighs 13 lbs and can reliably cross steep terrain. It includes two-way video and audio. The robot is capable of moving on virtually any type of terrain, crawling through thin pipes, and even climbing upstairs or walls. As it travels, the snakebot collects data from various sensors, including infrared, radiation, gas and vibration detection, GPS, accelerometer, 3D mapping, and 360-degree low-light video.
HAMR – Cockroach robot
Harvard Ambulatory MicroRobot (HAMR) is a centimeter robot inspired by cockroaches. They can walk on the ground, swim on the surface of the water, and walk under the water. Developed by researchers at Harvard University, it is designed to scam at high speed for exploration purposes. The robot is just about the size of a paper clip. It can also jump, climb, turn sharply, carry payloads, and fall from long distances without being injured. To go underwater, HAMR uses a voltage to break the surface tension, allowing it to sink.
Stickybot – A Gecko-like robot
Stickybot is a Gecko-like robot developed by Stanford engineers to use the remarkable climbing ability of the Gecko foot that can climb smooth surfaces, including a wall of slick glass. The Gecko footpad contains about 14,000 hair-like structures called setae, which interact with the molecules of the climbing surface, allowing the gecko to hang and support its entire weight. Stickybot uses the same method to maintain grip and could lead to the development of robots that can scale vertical surfaces to access places that are dangerous or difficult to reach.
Bat Bot B2
Developed by Caltech researchers, Bat Bot B2 is a fully self-contained, self-contained robot that can fly by flapping its wings like a bat. With a weight of only 93 grams, B2 is shaped like a real bat and has silicone-based, stretchable membrane wings that best match the morphological properties of the bat flight. The robot is capable of changing the shape of its wing by flexing, extending, and twisting its shoulders, wrists, hips, elbows, and legs. The flight control of B2 consists of onboard sensors, high-performance encoder feedback micromotors, and a microprocessor. B2 can be operated without a remote control.
SCRATCHbot – A robot rat
SCRATCHbot is a robot rat that can search and identify objects using whiskers. Researchers at the Bristol Robotics Lab have developed a robot using innovative artificial touch technologies rather than vision to identify objects, enabling the robot to function in spaces such as dark or smoke-filled rooms where image is often severely compromised. They started by capturing high-speed videos of rats using their whiskers and tracking each whisker. They developed whiskers out of abs plastic and began building a robot, using 3D printers. Motors are used to move the whiskers, and the information collected was processed by the robot’s chips. Future applications of whisker technology could include the use of robots underground, under the sea or in extremely dusty conditions.
SoFi – A soft robotic fish
SoFi is a soft robotic fish, made of silicone rubber to allow a closer study of aquatic life. Using its tail and a unique ability to control its buoyancy, SoFi is able to swim in a straight line, turn, or even dive up or down. Researchers used a waterproofed Super Nintendo controller and developed a custom acoustic communications system that allowed them to change SoFi’s course of direction. SoFi spent up to 40 minutes at a depth of 50 feet during testing in the Rainbow Reef in Fiji, adjusting to the currents and making high-resolution photographs and videos.
RoboBee is a tiny robot which is capable of partially untethered flight. Developed by Harvard University, this autonomously flying microrobot with potential uses for crop pollination, surveillance, research and rescue missions, as well as high-resolution weather, climate, and environmental monitoring was inspired by bee biology. A RoboBee is only about half the size of a paper clip and weighs less than one-tenth of a gram. It flies with “artificial muscles” composed of materials that contract when the voltage is applied.