By Robert Hickson 02/03/2017

Seeing Boston Dynamics’ latest robot “Handle” got me thinking about the diversity of other autonomous (or nearly so) robots that have appeared over the last few years.


I’ve previously noted the prediction of a robotic “Cambrian explosion”. We aren’t at that stage yet, but it is interesting to look at the variety “out” there. Though mostly they are still in R&D labs.

Starting small and squishy, we have gel bots


Larger jelly ones

(Festo, a German automation company who have made several animal-like robots, also have an aerial jellyfish version. Most of their robots don’t seem to have real applications at this stage).

Then there is the Octobot, another proof-of-concept simple bot.


A dragonfly, from Festo (they do butterfly swarms too)


RoboBee (which needs an external power source)


An arachnid (though they have programmed moves rather than making their own decisions)


Moving on to bots with metaphorical backbones, Ghost Swimmer is a fishy surveillance robot under development for the military


The eel-like Eelume is being developed for underwater maintenance (it’s evolved from a snakey cousin)


Cassie is modeled on the lower half of an ostrich


While AquaMAV took inspiration from gannets


The US military is testing swarms of flying micro-drones


The much more sophisticated SpotMini can be useful inside and outside the house


While MIT’s cheetah literally leaps and bounds


I won’t cover humanoid robots here. It is interesting how nature is inspiring technologists. But for most of us, the “smarter” robots we are most likely to encounter will look more familiar, and possibly go unnoticed:


Featured image: Tradinno robotic dragon, made by Zollner Elektronik AG