Tag Archives: Bionics

Festo unveils a pair of insect-inspired robots


These robotic ants and butterflies act like the real things.


Well, it looks like Festo’s SmartBird, BionicKangaroo and BionicOpter are getting two new siblings. That’s because the German automation company has introduced the latest addition to its growing family of biomimetic robots: an ant and a butterfly.

For the first time, the cooperative behaviour of the creatures is also transferred to the world of technology using complex control algorithms. (Source: Festo)

The cooperative behavior of the real-life creatures is transferred to tech world using complex control algorithms. (Source: Festo)

First, the aptly named BionicANTS are designed to cooperatively operate. In other words, as a whole, they can complete complex tasks such as move larger objects, head to a specific location or conduct their own flash mob if they’d really like. Each 5.3-inch BionicANT is comprised of various components that are laser-sintered and finished with visible conductor structures and electrical circuits attached to its exterior.

The artificial ants can solve a complex task together working as an overall networked system. (Source: Festo)

The artificial ants can solve a complex task together working as an overall networked system. (Source: Festo)

A majority of the ant’s frame, as well as the electronic circuits located on the outside of its body, are 3D-printed. A radio module on its abdomen enables the robots to communicate with one another, while piezo-ceramic bending transducers are tasked with pushing movements, lifting its legs and activating its gripping jaws. A 3D stereo camera in the ant’s head allows it to see, an infrared optical sensor on its underside records the distance traveled, and a microprocessor distributes all the necessary signals. Beyond that, a pair of on-board Li-Po batteries provide up to 40 minutes of wireless power, before requiring to be recharged in a dock via their feelers.

Each butterfly is autonomous, using independently controllable wings to fly preprogrammed routes. (Source: Festo)

Each butterfly is autonomous, using independently controllable wings to fly preprogrammed routes. (Source: Festo)

Similarly, the beautiful eMotionButterfly also uses collective behavior through an intelligent networking system. As they soar through the sky, they can manuever along pre-programmed paths inside special areas equipped with 10 high-speed infrared cameras — this keeps them from crashing into each other, walls or any other object. Each 20-inch butterfly weighs just 32 grams, and are equipped with two servo motors, some electronics and two small Li-Po batteries that gives them enough juice to fly at 2.5 meters per second for four minutes before they need to be recharged.

If you squint really, really hard... (Source: Festo)

If you squint really, really hard… (Source: Festo)

Interested in learning more? Fly on over to Festo’s official page here, and be sure to watch both the ants and butterflies in action below.

Half human, half machine: Cyborgs are upon us

According to Webster’s Dictionary, a cyborg is defined as “a person whose body contains mechanical or electrical devices and whose abilities are greater than the abilities of normal humans.” With the field of biomedical science growing at a rapid pace, there is a rising trend for willing individuals to embed technology into, or onto, their bodies.

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Like countless other people on the planet, Neil Harbisson is colorblind. Instead of simply dealing with the disability, the Maker turned to robotics. According to CNN, he has had an antenna surgically implanted into his skull, thus enabling him to “hear” colors. The installed device converts the frequencies for different colors into the frequencies for different sounds.

Neil simply “didn’t want to wear technology, [he] wanted this to be an integral part of [him].” With the antenna installed, Neil can now overcome his affliction with the help of modern technology. This sort of situation is not short of ethical concerns, though. Neil notes that he needed to find a discrete doctor that would carry out the procedure anonymously because of bioethical committees that “don’t really agree with the unions between humans and technology.”

Time will only tell if implants like Neil’s become a norm, but other, more understated devices may drastically improve our daily lives. As NBC News reports, a vast majority of cyborgs get the technology embedded in their fingers or hands, where the skin is thin enough for the devices to interact with external objects. Take for instance Amal Graafsra, creator of Dangerous Things, who recently implanted a tiny RFID chip within his hand that now allows him to gain access to his car, his home and his personal safe. Then there’s cyborg Zoe Quinn, a well-known developer in the independent gaming world, who installed a magnet and chip into her fingers.

While these cyborgs may be no RoboCop, they still fit the definition and may be ushering in a new bionic trend in modern-day technology. And, as we take that leap from today’s wearable technologies to tomorrow’s implantable ones, many of them will likely be used for detecting and preventing disease. Some of the most recent “firsts” include the first bionic eye from California’s Second Sight, the first bionic body suits from companies like ReWalk and Ekso Bionics, and even groundbreaking research from BrainGate in Massachusetts are finding ways for those unable to move or speak to communicate via brain waves.