What is so ‘Nature’ about robots? 

Well to answer that, I can only give you one example right now. This will be short and sweet. It’s the BionicFinWave. What is that, you say? It’s a robotic fish that can swim in any water to go down and check on any mechanism any company has decided it needed down there. It’s quite interesting, actually.

An automation tech company called Festo, in Germany, used nature as inspiration for this thing. The cuttlefish, to be exact. With a little bit of the Nile perch thrown in. A cuttlefish is, as quoted from Wikipedia:

‘Cuttlefish, or cuttles, are marine animals of the order Sepiida. They belong to the class Cephalopoda, which also includes squid, octopi, and nautili. Cuttlefish have a unique internal shell, the cuttlebone. Despite their name, cuttlefish are not fish but molluscs. They have large, W-shaped pupils, eight arms, and two tentacles furnished with denticulated suckers, with which they secure their prey. They generally range in size from 15 to 25 cm (6 to 10 in), with the largest species, Sepia apama, reaching 50 cm (20 in) in mantle length and over 10.5 kg (23 lb) in mass. Their habitat is wherever there is warm ocean water. Except around the Americas. Since the cuttlefish originated overseas, scientists believe the ocean waters were too cold for the animal to cross.

Cuttlefish eat small molluscs, crabs, shrimp, fish, octopus, worms, and other cuttlefish. Their predators include dolphins, sharks, fish, seals, seabirds, and other cuttlefish. The average life expectancy of a cuttlefish is about 1-2 years. Recent studies indicate cuttlefish are among the most intelligent invertebrates. Cuttlefish also have one of the largest brain-to-body size ratios of all invertebrates.’

They are highly intelligent, throw ink when alarmed, can turn on a dime, and move in any direction as quickly as a heartbeat. In other words, they can mimic perfectly any UFO you may have seen up in the sky. This is what Festo was after.

Festo wanted an underwater bot that could move through the water with undulating fins, swimming while barely churning the water. The bot has two side fins, made from flexible silicon, that can move independently of each other so it can turn or dive when it needs to. Just like real fish can. The rest of its components were 3D printed. The company wanted it to track the depth of the water and sense the distance from other objects it was approaching. And to gather information about whatever piece of equipment it was sent out to examine. All sent back to the company wirelessly. Festo has accomplished all this. Seems like, pretty soon, we’ll be seeing these little critters in our oceans all over the place.

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