Spring is finally here, but what happened in the robotics field in March 2023? In the 37th installment of What's Trending in Robotics News, we uncover the breaking developments, hot issues, and trending stories in the world of robotics over the last month.
In one of the strangest stories in March, YouTuber and robotics engineer James Bruton revealed he's building a robot centipede that people can ride on, kind of like a small train. Yes, really. Per Hacker.io, Bruton has already tested the idea by creating a smaller robot centipede before he commits time and resources to his full-size project.
The robot looks like a centipede with its multiple yellow legs, but Bruton admits there's still a long way to go before his dream becomes a reality. His prototype, which you can see in this YouTube video, has leg mechanisms that slide backward because of ineffective linkages, so it will be back to the drawing board for now.
Another story that caught our attention this month is this one out of Genova, where researchers at the Italian Institute of Technology have developed a prototype of a soft robot that can crawl like an earthworm. According to Robohub, this robot has soft actuators that squeeze and elongate when air comes out or passes through them, mimicking the muscle movements of real earthworms. Pretty cool, right?
This earthworm robot, created with locomotion mechanics, is the starting point for developing more advanced robots that explore underground, helping search and rescue teams find people during natural disasters. These robots could even support the exploration of other planets. It's just one of the many robotic inventions we've seen recently that could make a real change in the world — and other worlds!
Talking about finding people during natural disasters, the clever folks at Ben-Gurion University have created a bio-friendly amphibious three-pound robot that can both crawl and swim, making it even more impressive than the earthworm robot we mentioned above.
AmphiSAW — that's the robot's name — has the potential to rescue survivors after floods and tsunamis, thanks to its single motor and bioinspired design. Per Interesting Engineering, AmphiSAW can scale to any size and has a head attached to two rotating wheels to increase its crawling speed over different terrains.
If this all sounds like something from a sci-fi comic, it's not, and researchers are now working on AmphiSAW's energy consumption to make it more effective when searching large areas. Remember, you heard it here first!
So we've had a centipede robot, an earthworm robot, and a robot that can crawl and swim. But what about a robot that can spot endangered fish? When Israeli researchers sent an underwater robot to the Gulf of Eilat, it spotted an elusive guitarfish 80 meters below the waves.
According to The Jerusalem Post, this robot discovery will help Israeli authorities protect unfamiliar areas of the sea and endangered species like goldfish.
There was a lot of robotics-related news in March, but we picked the stories that matched the theme "natural world." We've noticed more engineers and developers are influenced by living creatures like earthworms and centipedes when creating robot designs. How these animals crawl, swim, jump, or otherwise move from one location to another is inspiring the robotics world right now, and we're excited about all the developments listed above!
One more thing: If you know of any robotics developments we should feature in the next edition, please tell us about them! What's caught your attention this month that we need to know about? Comment below!
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Picture credit: James Bruton / Italian Institute of Technology / AmphiSAW / Ben-Gurion University / University of Cambridge / Boeing / Swee Ching Tan / Tech Explore / Christof Stache