A team of roboticists from KM-RoBoTa Sàrl, École Polytechnique Fédérale de Lausanne, and Verity AG in Switzerland have discovered that the reptilian robots they created for a BBC documentary in 2016 may have practical applications in studying marine life and disaster response efforts.
The researchers, Kamilo Melo, Tomislav Horvat, and Auke Ijspeert, detailed their findings in a paper published in the journal Science Robotics. The robots, known as SpyCroc and SpyLizard, were constructed at the request of the BBC to resemble a crocodile and a monitor lizard. Equipped with embedded cameras, these robots were released among real animals in and around the Nile River to observe and unravel the dynamics between the species.
Both SpyCroc and SpyLizard were designed to walk along riverbanks and swim in the river, while their exterior was covered with special skins, enabling them to blend in with the natural wildlife. The footage captured by these robotic spies played a crucial role in the BBC documentary, “Spy in the Wild.”
Since their initial creation, the research team has made significant improvements to the robots, particularly in terms of their resemblance to their biological counterparts and their overall performance. The robots now have enhanced mobility, an extended power system that allows for longer operational periods, and the capability to conduct long-duration studies.
These advancements have transformed the robots into valuable monitoring tools, which can facilitate a better understanding of animal behavior in their natural habitats, especially in circumstances where human presence may disrupt their activities. Additionally, the researchers propose that these robots could serve as valuable assets during disaster response efforts, such as floods and fires, by assisting in assessing the level of danger faced by frontline rescue workers.
The potential applications of the reptilian robots extend beyond filming documentaries and studying wild animals. With further advancements, they could contribute significantly to disaster response efforts by providing critical information and reducing the risks faced by rescue personnel. By deploying these robots instead of humans in hazardous environments, valuable insights and data could be gathered, enabling faster and more effective response strategies.
The research team’s work has opened up new avenues for studying animal behavior and addressing challenges faced during emergencies. As technology continues to advance, it is likely that we will see more innovative applications for robotic systems, leading to a safer and more comprehensive understanding of the world around us.
1. Source: Coherent Market Insights, Public sources, Desk research
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