by Jeff Eckert
Climbing the Walls
The Restless Planet theme park will feature 100+ mechatronic
dinosaurs. Photo courtesy of City of Arabia.
The CMU Waalbot climbs walls using
dry adhesion. Photo courtesy of
Carnegie Mellon Nanorobotics Lab.
In the common tradition of borrowing robotic concepts from nature is
Waalbot, which needs no magnets or
vacuum devices to attach itself to
vertical planes. Like a common gecko,
this Carnegie Mellon ( www.cmu.edu)
invention uses tiny fibers on its feet to
adhere to just about any surface. The little guy isn’t much bigger than a quarter,
but he sports two sets of three-footed
wheels, each with its own motor. The
spring-loaded tail keeps the critter
pushing against the wall’s surface.
Motion control, including steering, is provided by a PIC microcontroller and power by lithium-ion
batteries. Projected applications
include inspection, surveillance, and
possibly spacecraft repair. Coming
soon to a Waal-mart near you.
standing up most of the time. On the
positive side, Dubai’s gross domestic
product in 2006 was $46 billion, which
means they have a lot of extra money
for fun projects. And these folks, who
have already created a private island
archipelago shaped like the Earth’s
continents, and the world’s first
underwater hotel, don’t think small.
The current hot project there is
Restless Planet, a “unique, world-class
natural history phenomenon” that will
recreate 11 acres of the Earth as it was
100 million years ago. The park —
projected to cost $1.1 billion — will
feature 109 robots housed in a 75 m
dome, constituting the world’s largest
collection of animatronic dinosaurs.
The bots are being created by Japan’s
Kokoro Co. under the direction of
famed paleontologist Jack Horner.
The first one out of the gate is T.
Rex (the lizard, not Marc Bolan), which
is capable of following you with hungry
eyes, breathing, and
curling its lips, but it
will probably stop
short of eating you.
A series of rides will
take visitors through
a collection of
high-tech effects that
illustrate the birth of
the planet and the
creation of its topographical features
and oceans. The finale is a visit to the
age of dinosaurs. Restless Planet is
scheduled to open late this year, so
book your flight to the City of Arabia
( www.cityofarabiame.com) early. (The
current price is $1152, round trip KLM.)
Baby Seals Boost
Most of the bots you see these days
are aimed at some sort of mundane
application, be it industrial or service. But
Japanese developers seem to be wrapped
up in what has been called the “cult of
cute,” and one of the most adorable is
Paro, the baby harp seal from Intelligent
System Co. ( www.intelligent-system.
jp). It is classified as a “mental commitment robot,” defined as one devel-
Dinosaurs to Roam Again
Dubai, to put things in perspective, is the second largest nation within
the United Arab Emirates, even though
it occupies only 4,114 sq km (about 16
sq mi). This puts it on a par with
Headland, AL. But its population is
1,422,000, as opposed to Headland’s
3,523, so a lot of people must be
Left: Paro, the robotic baby harp seal, photo courtesy
of Intelligent System Co., Ltd. Right: The real thing,
photo by Rei Ohara, courtesy of harpseals.org.
8 SERVO 03.2008