bots IN BRIEF
FANTASTIC PHOTO OPPS
Robots are designed for tasks that are dull, dirty, or dangerous, right? Well, taking
close-ups of African wildlife certainly can fall into that last category, especially when
you’re trying to get super close up and personal with big and temperamental animals
(like water buffalo or elephants or lions). Solution? Enter a digital single-lens reflex
camera and a cute robot with big wheels. Will and Matt Burrard-Lucas built BeetleCam
to get a new perspective on African animals. BeetleBot is controlled remotely from a
Range Rover about 50 yards away, and has gotten into quite few shenanigans.
The Burrard-Lucas team thought that elephants would be an easy subject for
BeetleCam’s first outing. They were
wrong because elephants are wary of
unfamiliar objects and due to their highly sensitive hearing, they are almost
impossible to sneak up on! (And you thought elephants just had good
memories.) They soon discovered that the best way to photograph an
elephant was to position the camera well in front of it and then let the
animal approach it in its own time. With this technique, Will and Matt
managed to get some incredible photos of these colossal creatures. Go to
and check them out.
Meet Stickybot III — a brand new incarnation of Stanford Robotics gecko-inspired
Stickybot III is able to stick to glass by using an adhesive material that mimics gecko
feet. Gecko toes are covered in bajillions of microscopic hairs that are so tiny they are
attracted to the very molecules in the surface that they’re on. The material is not “sticky”
in the normal sense but rather the material is attracted to the surface directly through
Van der Waals forces.
The difficulty in getting Stickybot III
to actually climb is due in large part to
the way the sticky pads are attached to
its feet. Gecko feet use a bunch of
different pliable layers of the sticky hairs
which maximizes the surface area of
their feet that makes contact with the surface that they’re trying to
stick to. Stickybot III only has a few layers, so if the feet aren’t
oriented properly with respect to the surface, a lot of the adhesion
is lost. According to Stanford, Stickybot is an embodiment of their
hypotheses about the requirements for mobility on vertical
surfaces using dry adhesion. The main point is to have a controllable adhesion. Future Spidermen need not apply.
Cool tidbits herein provided by Evan Ackerman at www.botjunkie.com, www.robotsnob.com, www.plasticpals.com, and other places.
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