– – In the movie Terminator Salvation, we are briefly exposed to a kind of robotic snake created by Skynet that is primarily aquatic. Animal-like robots in real life have been few and far between, however, with most built to resemble pets such as Sony’s AIBO, and the vast majority little better than toys…why bother? Most true robots in the past could be classified as Widgetophora, which embraced and looked like machinery; or Anthropoidea, which aspired to resemble humanoids.
Robotic engineers have realized that they are missing out on a good thing, however, and are beginning to design Zoomorpha, creations which draw their inspiration from the animal kingdom. While these robots are presently a far cry from looking like animals, they draw both design and functional considerations from such animals as primitive fish, reptiles, and invertebrates, including insects. An international consortium centered in Italy is actually building a robotic octopus, although currently it has but one limb, and is accordingly a monopus.
Now a monopus sounds like a nightmare escapee from Sesame Street, but plans are to add additional arms and a control system that can co-ordinate them all.- -What could you do with a robotic octopus besides put it in a punchbowl at the Country Club or feature it on Squidbillies?- -Well, it might help people do difficult jobs underwater, such as shut off leaking oil valves. Other camera-equipped flying robots modeled on insects might get into places that are too small or too dangerous for people.
A robotic creation would not need to look like an animal in order to behave like one, and specialized robots of the future might be hybrids or specialist machines designed to collaborate. An airbot might feed information to a groundbot or seabot designed to perform different tasks in a kind of robotic ecosystem…all very cool stuff!