People Innovation Excellence

Pleurobot Is an Eerily Lifelike Robotic Salamander

By Evan Ackerman

It’s not particularly difficult to make a robot that looks like an animal. It’s much harder to make a robot that behaves like an animal. At EPFL, a group led by Prof. Auke Jan Ijspeert has been working on swimming robots for over a decade, using the salamander as a model, and Pleurobot looks like the most accurate—and eerily lifelike—yet.

Alllllright, so the whole talking thing is maybe not typical behavior for salamanders, but we’ll let it slide. The key to Pleurobot’s lifelike motion is its design, which was based on 3D x-ray movies of a real salamander walking and swimming:

Tracking up to 64 points on the animal’s skeleton we were able to record three-dimensional movements of bones in great detail. Using optimization on all the recorded postures for the three gaits we deduced the number and position of active and passive joints needed for the robot to reproduce the animal movements in reasonable accuracy in three-dimensions. …[Read more]


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