Nature is a source of inspiration for technology. This is known as biomimicry. The first planes were already based on birds. Scientists can also learn a lot from the animal kingdom in the development of robots .
Of the beaver for example. At the University of Buffalo they have built a robot that is inspired by the beaver. The biological phenomenon of how beavers build dams is included in the development of the robot. As a result, this robot can drive over obstacles with uneven terrain.
The beaver that became a robot
A beaver builds his dam to stop moving water. They do not do this with a premeditated plan, but through indirect coordination. This process is called ‘stigmergie’. Animals work indirectly together, but do not need a communication or plan. For example, termites leave a mud ball with pheromones somewhere. Other termites attracted by the pheromones also leave their mud balls in the same spot. This creates a large termite nest.
With the robot they try to do the same. It is a mini-Rover vehicle with a camera and an arm that can lift and drop objects. The researchers made an uneven terrain with blocks, stones, bags and pieces of concrete that mimic an environment after a tornado or earthquake. The robot constantly monitors its environment and changes it to become more mobile. The robot picked up the bags and dropped them in the holes between the stones and concrete pieces. The bags make a slope and so the robot can drive over the obstacles. In ten tests, the robot drove 33 to 170 bags to the target location.
What does this have to do with beavers and termites? Beavers also use material that is close to building with. The robot also uses the bags in the neighborhood and adjusts them until they form a slope that it can drive over. Beautiful, that nature!