The Week’s Coolest Robot Videos, Animal Edition

The Citizen's Guide to the Future
Nov. 4 2011 3:56 PM

The Week’s Coolest Robot Videos, Animal Edition

Every Friday, Future Tense rounds up the week’s best robot videos—from dancing automatons to military machines. Have you seen a great robot video? Send it our way or leave it in the comments.

This week, meet three biology-inspired works of mechanical genius.

Torie Bosch Torie Bosch

Torie Bosch is the editor of Future Tense, a project of Slate, the New America Foundation, and Arizona State that looks at the implications of new technologies. 

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1. The Robo-Guide Dog

Though they do wonderful work, guide dogs (and seeing eye ponies) for the blind have some obvious drawbacks—including passers-by who on stroking animals in spite of clear “Don’t pet me, I’m working” signage.

Enter the guide robot. The latest prototype, the third created by the Japanese company NSK since 2005, can only move 3.8 kilometers per hour, so it isn’t quite ready for the fast-paced visually impaired. But in the future, the robot might be superior to the traditional canine in some ways—for instance, by coming equipped with GPS.

Via TechCrunch.

2. PETMAN

PETMAN, or Protection Ensemble Test Mannequin, was created by Boston Dynamics, with funding from the U.S. Army, to test “chemical protection clothing.” But the bot, which many are comparing to the Terminator, will likely have other uses as well. The president of Boston Dyanmics told IEEE Spectrum, "There are all sorts of things robots like PETMAN could be used for. Any place that has been designed for human access, mobility, or manipulation skills. Places like the Fukushima reactors could be accessed by PETMAN-like robots (or AlphaDogs), without requiring any human exposure to hazardous materials. Perhaps firefighting inside of buildings or facilities designed for human access, like on board ships designed for human crews."

Via Gizmodo.

3. The Gecko Bot

Technically, it’s a “tailless Timing Belt Climbing Platform (TBCP-II) utilizing dry adhesives with mushroom caps.” But calling it a gecko robot is simply more fun. The bot’s creators, from Canada’s Simon Fraser University, hope that it could eventually be used in everything “from inspecting pipes, buildings, aircraft and nuclear power plants to deployment in search and rescue operations.”

Via the Guardian.

Future Tense is a partnership of SlateNew America, and Arizona State University.

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