Robot Animals

Now Even Animals Are Being Replaced By Robots

Planet of the (Robot) Apes
05_BionicOpter01222_500px

Photo: Festo

While The Matrix and Terminator have shown us that eventually machines will rise up and kill us all, we hopefully still have a ways to go until we get to that point. But animals like dragonflies and jellyfish are already being replaced by robots, and they could soon patrol our skies and waters.

The dragonfly, coined the BionicOpter by automation company and creator Festo, will launch next month at the Hannover Messe trade show, and is designed to mimic a real dragonfly’s flight abilities. Controlled via smartphone, the BionicOpter is a product of Skynet Festo’s Bionic Learning Network, a “cooperation between Festo and renowned universities, institutes and development companies” that focuses on applying “principles from nature provide inspiration for technical applications and industrial practice.” Other robots in the Network include a self-learning machine that can move a ball and a conveyor system.

Even more freaky is the U.S. Navy’s partnership with a number of universities to create the Robo-Jelly, a robotic jellyfish that could be used to patrol the open ocean in the coming years.

The Robo-Jelly features a silicone skin that protects its technological insides from water damage, and can run on its own energy for several months, using just its eight mechanically controlled arms for movement.

Although the current model is fairly large (nearly the size of an adult) researchers have also made smaller versions that are roughly the size of a person’s hand.

Virginia Tech professor Shashank Priya, who is leading the project, said that the jellyfish was chosen for the basis of the robot because they need little energy and have “a lower metabolic rate than other marine species” and are also well equipped to survive in varying water conditions.

This is how the Singularity begins: with a single robot jellyfish.

Follow Jeremy Unger on Twitter or via RSS.