Scientists are designing robots that can go where humans cannot or should not go, and often rely on inspiration from nature to do so. For instance, snakelike robots could, in principle, slither into crevices to help find disaster victims. Challenging environments for robots to cross include sand, gravel, soil, mud and other unstable granular surfaces that can deform around legs in complex ways.
“These little turtles are remarkably effective at moving over solid ground, with limbs designed for moving in fluid,” Goldman told TechNewsDaily.
Flippered robots inspired by sea-turtle hatchlings could shed light on how the ancestors of terrestrial animals first evolved to crawl on land, researchers say.
Such research could also lead to amphibious robots that can tackle both land and sea, investigators added.
Scientists are designing robots that can go where humans cannot or should not go, and often rely on inspiration from nature to do so. For instance, snakelike robots could, in principle, slither into crevices to help find disaster victims.
Snake Robot Rides a Dog to the Rescue
The German shepherd had sniffed his way through a 60-foot tunnel to reach the person trapped inside. He barked furiously to signal his human handlers — and a coiled robot snake dropped from his belly to the ground next to the victim.
The demonstration showed how man’s best friend might team up with search and rescue robots at the training grounds of Texas A&M University’s “Disaster City” last fall. The dog’s keen sense of smell and swift-footed approach combines with the robot snake’s camera and slinky exploration capabilities to give human rescuers a close-up look at the scene.
“I don’t see one replacing the other,” said Alex Ferworn, director of the Network-Centric Applied Research Team Lab at Ryerson University in Canada. “I see dogs and robots as complementary.”
Everyone knows machines don’t have feelings. But try telling that to your brain.
“We have one social brain, and it’s the same whether we’re dealing with a person or a machine,” said Clifford I. Nass, the Thomas M. Storke Professor at Stanford University, who studies the social aspects of technology. “People use the same social graces with machines, especially computers, as they do with people.”
5 Reasons why to Fear Robots
It goes beyond automated vacuums and mildly entertaining dance-bots. Japan and Korea plan to deploy humanoid robots to care for the elderly, while the United States already fields thousands of robot warriors on the modern battlefield. Meanwhile, plenty of people have enhanced their bodies technologically in ways that bring them closer to their robotic brethren.
Consider that Roomba, the automated vacuum cleaner, is manufactured by iRobot, creator also of armed robot warriors for the U.S. military. And Asimo represents just the first wave of an incoming tsunami of robots that strive to look and act eerily human.
1. Robots Steal Our Hearts
People are hardwired to perceive faces and get emotional about almost everything, whether it’s a stuffed animal or a car. However, robots still have to navigate one tricky obstacle of the mind — the “Uncanny Valley” phenomenon where a robot looks almost human, save for a bizarre twitch or stutter or glassy-eyed stare which can creep people out. Many researchers currently try to bypass the issue by simply designing robots to look less human, and retain that clunky robotic cuteness.
2. Humans May Prefer Robot Lovers
Experts aren’t wondering if humans will ever make love to robots — they’re already discussing what happens when that day comes. It may sound snicker-worthy, but consider that many people have had online relationships that get pretty intimate through Internet chat rooms and participate in socially intense massively multiplayer online games for years. A flesh-and-steel robot that feels, looks and sounds like a human would have even greater appeal, robotics researchers say. And if history serves as any guide, you don’t need the perfect Stepford Wife to tempt spouses or significant others into a little robotic addiction and strain existing human relationships.
3. Robots Take Our Jobs
Modern humans have not gone obsolete just yet, but robots have already found their place as space explorers that can endure harsh environments off and on Earth. They have also brought their tireless efficiency to everything from assembly line work to humdrum gene sequencing in labs, and have appeared in growing numbers on real-life battlefields — although the latter can lead to the different problem if robots stage a rebellion, or even just have a weapons malfunction. For now, robots complement rather than replace elements of the human workforce and armed forces due to limits on their intelligence.
4. Robot Insurrection: Kill All Humans
Thousands of drones and ground robots have been deployed by many nations, and particularly the United States in Iraq and Afghanistan. An automatic antiaircraft gun killed human soldiers on its own when it malfunctioned during a South African training exercise. Military researchers refer to “Terminator” scenarios, and seriously discuss how armed robots are changing the rules and ways of modern war. If that’s not enough to make you a bit leery, consider that Great Britain has established a network of satellites for the purpose of coordinating all those drones and other military assets. It shares the same name as a certain villainous artificial intelligence that dominates the “Terminator” movies — Skynet.
5.Your Grandkids Will Be Robots
You can already see many such 21st-century cyborgs playing around with their iPhones, or staring off into the distance with earbuds piping music into their heads. Artificial limbs, organs and bionic eyes? Check. Coming from the other direction, robots have steadily improved in almost every possible way: walking, talking and learning. Man and machine increasingly look alike, and at some point the difference may not exist.
Humans won’t worry so much about robots once they’ve merged with them. So it’s OK to become a bit of a paranoid android, because many experts say that the robotic future is rapidly approaching, if not already here. Robots probably won’t completely take over or annihilate the human race anytime soon, but they may supplant us by other means — and LiveScience is here to count the reasons why you need not hide your fear of the metal ones.