Beware the Unstoppable Robot Turtle


What are the odds of us having two articles this week about robotic turtles? As of today, it’s 100 percent, thanks to this robotic baby sea turtle, um, thing. It’s called Flipperbot, and it’s designed to help biologists figure out how animals with flippers move in sand, and to help roboticists figure out how to get robots with flippers to do the same.

I’ll admit that putting “unstoppable” in our headline is probably a bit cavalier: this robot is most certainly stoppable, and in fact part of the point of constructing it is to figure out how to make robots less stoppable in granular media. In general, we humans don’t have a lot of firsthand experience in using flippers in sand, but that’s okay, because plenty of other animals do, and sea turtles are among the cutest of those. They’ve been busy flippering around in sand for millions of years, so rather than attempting to derive optimized flippery movement from scratch, lazy roboticists are cheating by simply trying to duplicate what the turtles do, and determine what makes that technique the one that the animals have converged on. [Read More]