My following article below was originally published by SERIOUS WONDER:
For Professor John Long, who is also the author of Darwin’s Devices: What Evolving Robots Can Teach Us About the History of Life and the Future of Technology, “evolving biorobots can replicate creatures that disappeared from the earth long ago, showing us in real time what happens in the face of unexpected environmental challenges.” In other cases, biorobots are being constructed, not to replicate long-extinct animals, but animals that still exist today and attain attributes that could significantly change the way we go about designing new technologies.
Say hello to DALER (Deployable Air-Land Exploration Robot) – the robot bat that can also seemingly use its wings to mimic the motion of walking.
“This project aims to design robots for exploration, search-and-rescue, or surveillance applications. Within these contexts, the robots have to deal with very complex terrains, such as semi-collapsed buildings, deep caverns, or forests with a lot of vegetation.” – Ludovic Daler, Ph.D.
The research is led by Ludovic Daler, who just recently published a new study on the DALER, whereby he claims that the “robotʼs design is inspired by the common vampire bat Desmodus rotundus.” The bat design doesn’t just replicate the bat’s skeleton system, but subsequently has been tweaked to include a folding mechanism that deploys and retracts its wings. The wings are designed to adapt with ground mobility, with its folding mechanism used to compensate for different ground conditions, adding maximum efficiency in its locomotion.
When off the ground, the DALER’s rotating wingtips act as an altitude control system, allowing the robot bat to reach up to 20 m/s. When on the ground, it reaches 6 cm/s. This might not sound all too impressive for its walking abilities, but when facing search and rescue situations, its walking attribute will grant the bat the ability to dodge obstructions that can only be conceivably addressed by walking underneath it.
Biorobots used to address grand challenges have been the ultimate goal for many roboticists. For many situations, putting more humans at risk to help save the lives of others would appear almost self-defeating. Especially if that situation takes a turn for the worse and kills everyone. This gives us a great opportunity to start using robots for more than just eye-appeal, but to really change the way we go about helping other people. In doing so, we may also change the very way we look at robots – as not just something we may have conversations with in the coming years, but also something that may save our lives one day.