Robotic Renaissance: Past, Present, and Future  of Bio Based Robotics

  Robofest 2013  

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Zoobotic Animal Based Robots

Animal Based Robots


A robot can be based upon any living organism. Zoobotics is animal based robotics. For Zoobotics, kinetics include walking, swimming, flying, crawling, rolling, slithering, propulsion, etc. and more for animal locomotion and function. Mammal and reptile based Zoobotics typically have a head, body, and four limbs. Kinematic gaits for 4 legged animals can "symmetrical" and "asymmetrical" based on limb movement. In a symmetrical gait, the left and right limbs of a pair alternate, while in an asymmetrical gait, the limbs move together. Asymmetrical gaits are sometimes termed "leaping gaits", due to the presence of a suspended phase.


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Leonardo Da Vinci, the ultimate Renaissance man, may have also built one of the first zoobotic automation, a Lion. There are written stories that Leonardo made a mechanical Lion that was able to walk and present flowers at the end of its performance and was presented to a King of France as an amusement or as a diplomatic gesture in 1515. Leonardo Da Vinci also studied bird flight in great detail and designed several wings based upon bats which he described as being less heavy because of the impenetrable nature of the membrane. While he designed a number of man powered flying machines with mechanical wings that flapped which would not have flown, he also designed a parachute and a light hang glider which could have flown.

Aerial screw considered the early prototype for a helicopter

A design for a flying machine, (c. 1488) Institut de France, Paris

Drawings and studies of bat wings

Inner workings of a  recreation of a  possible Da Vinci automation lion
 Codex Atlanticus f.812rCodex Madrid I see f.90 Graphic Designs: Mirko Marini Images are owned by the company Niccolai Teknoart SNC (Firenze)Technological definition of ‘Automaton Mechanical Lion’

Inner workings of a  recreation of a possible Da Vinci  automation lion


We are presently in a Robotics Renaissance with Robotics usage projected to increase 3000% in the next year 10 years alone. As they did for Da Vinci, animals and nature continue to provide inspiration to innovators and robotics developers. Animal based robots of today can look and move virtually identically to the animals upon which they are based. Given the physical characteristics and programmed behavior of their model animal, they can perform the functions and jobs the living animal currently performs. Just some of the many applications for animal based robotics include:

  1. Medical applications (prototype animal physiology for surgery and research)
  2. Military applications (carrying supplies or troupes, air and land surveillance, rescue, combat)
  3. Dull or Routine jobs (guard animal, domestic pet, assistance animals, therapeutic animals)
  4. Dirty or dangerous jobs (search and rescue, toxic clean-up)
  5. Distant space exploration or deep sea missions (navigation over challenging and diverse terrains)
  6. Entertainment, performing, communication, playing
Monopus Tentacle
 NSK Robotic Guide Dog

Paro, AIST
Therapeutc baby seal
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(To see some cool animal based  robots see

Animal based robots of today can simulate many animal forms of locomotion including:

  1. Walking and running on three or more legs (on flat surfaces and down a slope)
  2. Walking down stairs
  3. Jumping and leaping
  4. Swimming
  5. Swinging
  6. Slithering
  7. Flying
  8. Gliding
  9. Crawling
  10. Rolling


Think of the impact of the original Renaissance and the Industrial Revolution, on the entire World of that time! What impact will our Robotics Renaissance and a following Robotics Revolution have on our future World?  It is hard to imagine or predict. Given the use of Zoobotics, it is likely new robotic forms will evolve from animal hybrids in a shape, form, and size never seen before in nature. We may have micro robots based upon small insects or even bacteria or fungus to mega size robots composed of smaller robots or hive like units. Robots may be able to lift objects 1000 x times their size like the ants, run at quick burst speeds like the cheetah, swim like sharks, propel themselves underwater like squid, and manipulate many tools simultaneously like an octopus. In households and stores, animal based robots may become a usual occurrence as pets, companions, and assistants for the infirm, elderly, or young. Leveraging unique abilities of the animal form and intelligence, we will be most certainly be able to achieve unique solutions and innovations in industry, manufacturing, agriculture, and much more. Military operations will use Zoobotics, and the first colonists in space may be Zoobotic based to better traverse unusual and diverse terrains.


In the future we may have Zoobotics that:

  1. They may use multi-faceted eyes like a fly, night vision eyes like a cat, long distance vision like an eagle, or multiple eyes like a spider.
  2. They may have a keen sense of hearing to guard houses and to quickly respond to calls for help
  3. They may use a keen sense of smell to detect or track.


    Ongoing advances in robot’s musculoskeletal systems will further improve locomotion of animal based robots. New innovations with alternative locomotion and animal based abilities will allow robots to maneuver on rocky and uneven terrain, swim in water, and fly in the air. Robots may be capable of exploring deep water and deep space. Eventually, robots may be capable of any animal and human motor feat, including the ability to assess any obstacle and devise techniques to surmount it and to do it even faster and more reliably than the human or animals upon which it is based!