You could be excused for thinking that German robotics corporation Festo does nothing but put together fabulous paradigm robots created in order to resemble kangaroos, jellyfish, and other living thing. They do in fact actually make real industrial robots, but it’s hard not to marvel at their biomimetic ventures; Case in extent, the feathered BionicSwift and absurd BionicMobileAssistant motile arm.
Festo already has a flying bird robot — I wrote about it roughly 10 year ago. They even made a flying bat as a follow-up. But the BionicSwift is more impressive than both because, in an effort to more closely resemble its avian revelation, it flies using artificial feathers.
” The individual lamellae[ i.e. stripes] are made of an ultralight, adaptable but extremely robust foam and lie on top of each other like shingles. Connected to a carbon quill, they are attached to the actual hand and weapon offstages as in the natural prototype ,” Festo writes in its description of the robot.
The articulating lamellae allow the backstage to work like a bird’s, structuring a powerful dollop on the downstroke to push against the aura, but separating on the upstroke to produce less fight. Everything is verified on-board, including the indoor positioning organization that the chick was ostensibly built to demonstrate. Flocks of BionicSwifts can fly in close quarters and bypassed each other using an ultra wideband setup.
Festo’s BionicMobileAssistant seems like it would be more practical, and in a way it is, but not by much. The robot is basically an appendage arising as a result of a wheeled base — or rather a balled one. The spherical fanny is driven by three “omniwheels,” telling it move readily in any direction while also reducing its footprint.
The hand is a showcase of modern robotic gripper pattern, with all kinds of state of the art tech backpack in there — but the result is less than the sum of its parts. What makes a robotic paw good these days is less that it has a hundred sensors in the palm and digits and huge motility for its digit, but preferably ability about what it is gripping. An unadorned pincer may be a better “hand” than one that looks like the real thing because of the software that backs it up.
Not to mention the spherical action policy procreates for something of an shaky cornerstone. It’s telling that the robot is hauling scarves and not plates of food or parts.
Of course, it’s silly to criticize such a machine, which is aspirational rather than practical. But it’s important to understand that these fascinating start-ups from Festo are inklings at a possible future more than anything.
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