The latest innovation in biomimicry is a robot kangaroo from German engineers at Festo. Dubbed BionicKangaroo, the robot’s design is inspired by a kangaroo’s long leg and foot tendons, which allow it to absorb and store energy as it hops along.
The roo-bot was two years in development, and actually looks like a kangaroo, weighs seven kilos and stands a meter high. Its pneumatic muscles can be driven either by an on-board, high-pressure storage tank, or an external compressor. An elastic spring made of rubber mimics a real roo’s Achilles tendon.
The greatest challenge for BionicKangaroo’s creators was how to prevent the bot from toppling over each time it landed. The problem was overcome by fine-tuning its hip and tail movements and modifying the use of its limbs. Unlike real kangaroos, BionicKangaroo utilizes all four of its limbs, as well as its tail, to bounce along.
The electronic circuitry is built into the cavity in its torso to concentrate its center of gravity. A rechargeable lithium battery supplies the power. The robot’s movement is controlled using a gesture-control armband. The bionic kangaroo is just the latest addition to Festo’s menagerie. Other members of the gang include the following:
• Bionicopter, a flying robot that mimics the complex flight patterns of the dragonfly. This robot has 13 degrees of freedom allowing it to make complex flight maneuvers;
• Aquajelly, an autonomous robotic jellyfish that mimics a real jellyfish’s swarming behavior by means of eight tentacles for propulsion.
• Aquapenguin, an autonomous underwater robot that has the ability to move its head, tail and wing sections in all directions and can even swim backward;
• Airpenguin, autonomous flying bionic penguins that can hover and maneuver through air space monitored by ultrasound transmission, allowing them free reign to explore their space;
• Smartbird, inspired by the herring gull, this bionic bird has the ability to take off, fly and land autonomously. It can flap its wings up and down, as well as twist them at specific angles; and
• Aquaray, a remote-controlled fish inspired by the stingray. Aquaray can imitate fin propulsion of real fish and can be maneuvered efficiently.