German automation company Festo has been getting inspiration from an unlikely source: the animal kingdom.
Since 2006, Festo has been building animal-like robots as part of its "Bionic Learning Network." Mimicking the efficiencies of the natural world is meant to help researchers come up with more creative and efficient ways to improve manufacturing.
Two of the company's newest creations are the BionicFlyingFox and the BionicWheelBot. The first is modeled after a fruit bat (also known as a flying fox). The BionicFlyingFox consists of a foam body and wings made out of a knitted elastane fabric. The robot flies using a motion-tracking camera system that's constantly following it. Images and flight patterns are fed into a central computer, where artificial counterpart can improve the robot's flight plans.
The idea for the BionicWheelBot came from the Sahara flic-flac spider, which rolls away when it feels threatened. Like its animal counter-part, the BionicWheelBot rolls using 15 small motors and an inertial sensor, which helps the bot keep track of its orientation.
Some of Festo's earlier projects include robotic ants, a robot kangaroo, a jellyfish, a dragonfly and penguins.