Tech

Bionic animals set to transform work

Published 10:23 PM ET, Wed May 6, 2015
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Researchers say robots in the future must show not only the capacity to take orders but perform individual and networked action too. Ant colonies have become a perfect model for the future of robotics. Courtesy of Festo
Festo's prototype artificial BionicANTs takes its cue from the deeply hierarchical and highly organized world of the ant colony. Courtesy of Festo
With greater flexibility and individuality demanded of automation in the future, the ants show how a networked group can communicate with each other while at the same time take orders at a higher control level. Courtesy of Festo
The project mimics nature to find solutions to the problems thrown up by the coordination and logistics necessary to carry out mechanical robotic tasks. Courtesy of Festo
The aim of its butterfly project is to show how communication in flight could one day work for complex networks in the workspace. Courtesy of Festo
"Although we don't expect our butterflies to be flying through factories any time soon, their integrated network systems may well be used as solutions for industrial logistics applications or could lead to a guidance and monitoring system in future factories," a Festo spokesman said. Courtesy of Festo
At the core of the research is swarm technology; the study of how large groups such as bees, ants and butterflies can act in concert as a group but at the same time maintain enough individual volition to avoid collision. Courtesy of Festo
The chameleon-tongue robot -- a liquid-filled rubber gripping device which mimics the grasping abilities of the predatory lizard -- could be used to handle small objects, replacing the finesse of human motor abilities in the workplace. Courtesy of Festo
"The tongue has the ability to grab differently-shaped objects and it can also grab more than one thing at once," he said. Courtesy of Festo
"It could be used, for instance, in lightening the load of small but time-consuming jobs on the factory floor or even to clean up a room by taking things back to their usual places," the spokesman said. Courtesy of Festo
"Bionic products are leading to new ideas about how industrial processes could work. At the moment the development is furious and the changes are fundamental." Courtesy of Festo
"Our butterflies get their instructions from a master computer in much the same way as an air traffic controller operates at an airport, coordinating all the different flying manoeuvres each butterfly performs." Courtesy of Festo