You wouldn’t typically think that an elephant could inspire robot design, but that’s a limit of your imagination. Festo has been developing bio-inspired robots for the past several years with some amazing results. From sea rays to dragonflys, all of these creatures have inspired engineers to learn and create human designed mechanisms for use in our daily lives. The elephant’s trunk inspired the “Bionic Handling Assistant.” Through the intelligent use of pneumatics the arm eliminates lots of heavy metal parts that can be dangerous. Industrial settings often require lots of caging and safety features around robots, which can rival the cost of the robot itself. Attaching it to a mobile robot base, such as with the Robotino XT, it’s only a matter of time before a humanoid design is developed with walking ability.
Research into soft robotics has been an interesting field as researchers try to develop safer robots that interact with humans. As compared to robots like Atlas from Boston Dynamics, soft robots will be much safer without the weight of all that metal flying around. That will be fairly important if you’re working as a service robot around both grandma and small children. They also have applications in other areas, like space, where limiting the amount of weight and storage space is a huge savings and allows for other necessary survival items.
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