From bionic bats to computerised cats: New 'Robot Safari' exhibition lets visitors pet - and build their own - electronic animals

November 25, 2013 3:48 PM

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London might not be the first place that springs to mind when the words 'exotic', 'animals' and 'safari' are mentioned.

But a new exhibition showcasing robots inspired by nature will let visitors interact with an electronic cheetah cub, a mechanical flying bat and a shoal of biomimetic fish in the capital.

The Science Museum’s three-day festival celebrates 13 incredible robots from across Europe, many of which have gone on display for the first time.

Visitors to the exhibition, which opens on November 27 and runs over until December 1, can trek through the unnatural habitats of robots inspired by nature, interacting with creatures that swim, flap, and crawl, in a ‘unique’ safari experience.

The exhibition includes an underwater turtle robot, a robotic cheetah-cub, a shoal of luminous robotic fish and the unveiling of Pleurobot, a mechanical salamander.

Roboticists will demonstrate their robots from helping visitors interact with the fish to stretching the bat's wings, while explaining the latest developments in biomimetic robotics.

There are also lessons to help people programme, build and race their own simple robots.

The cheetah robot, may not look that much like its furry inspiration, but it mimics the cat’s legs so it can walk and trot.

Lightweight and self-stabilising, the next-generation cat is not just a novelty item, but is a research tool that has the potential to be used by scientists to explore rough terrains.

The robot, which is built by the robotics laboratory at École polytechnique fédérale de Lausanne, Switzerland, the cub is the fastest four-legged robot that weighs under 30kg, in the world and can run at 1.42 metres per second.

The researchers are also debuting their robotic salamander – the Pleurobot – for the first time.

Professor Auke Ijspeert of EPFL, said: ‘Cheetah-cub mimics much of cat morphology – featuring significant simplifications and better performance than traditional quadruped robots – while the salamander-like Pleurobot represents the next stage in our quest to understand how the nervous system controls rich movement.

The Bat-Bot uses extremely light artificial muscles to move and its wings change shape during flight, while Robo Spyder moves like the real thing and can negotiate obstacles as well as react to sound.

An usual 12-legged robot mimics the unusual movement of a tumbleweed and another copies jellyfish propulsion to help scientists understand how the creatures move.

There are also multiple underwater robotic animals on show, including sea turtles, an iTuna and Jessiko - a luminous robotic fish that can swim as part of a shoal to show how robots can work together.

Robot Safari is free and suitable for all ages, but the Science Museum expects it to be popular and timed tickets will be needed, that can be booked in person at its ticket office or via 020 7942 4000.


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