Watch This Salamander Robot Slither Like The Real Thing

Research engineered

Robot Salamander

Robot Salamander

Pleurobot, the robotic salamander based X-ray videos and designed by EPFL researchersHillary Sanctuary / EPFL

Salamanders were among the first creatures to walk on land. The wriggly amphibians, with stubby legs and moist bodies, are adept at swimming and just okay at crawling. In their defense, hardly anything else made the transition from water to land, so when they arrived, few could witness their awkward gangly steps, but many creatures that evolved afterwards adapted from the salamander’s humble origins.

To better grasp the evolution of locomotion, researchers at Switzerland's Ecole Polytechnique Fédérale de Lausanne (EPFL) built a salamander robot from 3D printed parts. And just for kicks, they made it look like a skeleton.

Here we can see how the robomander’s walk is like that of its living inspiration.

They named their robomander Pleurobot, after the salamander species Pleurodeles waltl. From the EPFL:

The researchers designed Pleurobot with fewer bones and joints than the real-life creature. The robot features only 27 motors and 11 segments along its spine, while the amphibian has 40 vertebrae and multiple joints, some of which can even rotate freely and move side-to-side or up and down. In the design process, the researchers identified the minimum number of motorized segments required, as well as the optimal placement along the robot’s body. As a result, it could replicate many of the salamander’s types of movement. "Animal locomotion is an inherently complex process," says Kostas Karakasilliotis who designed the first versions of the Pleurobot. "Modern tools like cineradiography, 3D printing, and fast computing help us draw closer and closer to understanding and replicating it."

Specifically, the researchers are looking at the why spinal cord stimulation changes the creature’s movement. Both the robot and real salamanders can walk, run, or swim. In living creatures, the intensity of electrical stimulation of the spine changes walking to a run, or running to a swimming motion in water.

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