Salamander robot slithers between water and land

The Salamandra robotica II mimics a salamander's movements by swimming, crawling, and walking.

Salamandra robotica II
The salamander robot makes its way from the water. EPFL, Biorobotics Laboratory, Kostas Karakasiliotis

We first met Salamandra robotica back in 2007 when it was helping researchers study vertebrate locomotion. Like a real salamander, the manmade critter has evolved over time and we now have Salamandra robotica II, the next generation of the creepy-crawly-swimmy thing.

The original robot looked like a bunch of blocks stacked together. The new one looks like it could star in a sci-fi movie called "Robo-salamanders on a Spaceship." (Hey, isn't that already in production on the SyFy channel?) The robot didn't just get an upgrade in the looks department, it also can swim twice as fast, has foldable limbs, and sports more powerful micro-controllers that simulate muscles.

Salamandra robotica II comes from the Biorobotics Laboratory at the École Polytechnique Fédérale de Lausanne technical university in Switzerland. Its ability to swim, crawl, and walk makes it unusual in the robotics world. For people with a fear of robots, that means there's nowhere to escape from it (unless you can fly).

The amphibious robot uses a digital version of a spinal cord neural network to control its movements. It is helping researchers understand how salamanders are able to move and make the transition between water and land. Based on a video of Salamandra robotica II showing off its moves, I'd say the researchers have really nailed it. I don't think I'd want to unwittingly stumble on this thing emerging from the inky waters of the local pond.

Salamandra robotica II close-up
Too bad it's not as slimy as a real salamander. EPFL, Biorobotics Laboratory, Kostas Karakasiliotis


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