5. MIT robotic clam
Researchers at MIT are learning from the animal kingdom. The robotic clam project mirrors the activity of a real razor clam, which can dig through underwater sand and implant itself more securely than an anchor for an ocean liner.
The razor clam turns the surrounding substrate material into liquid to help with digging. Amos Winter, an MIT student who developed the project, created the robot clam with similar attributes, although it’s about half the size of a real razor clam.
“The RoboClam can push with about 50 times the force of a real clam, and can move about twice as fast and open up twice as wide,” said Winter. “A razor clam embeds itself much more efficiently than any existing anchor. This is attractive in applications where energy is at a premium, such as underwater robots, remote ocean sensors and space applications. There’s also interest in using this technology where weight is an issue, such as seaplanes. Furthermore, the oil industry is interested in ultra-deepwater applications, where human interaction with the ocean bottom is difficult.”
It isn’t only creatures buried beneath the seabed that are attracting the interest of the MIT scientists. Winter says that the robotics field may start examining animals for other projects that mirror unique abilities – not just for digging anchors, but mimicking the speed, motion and force of living creatures, such as a whale or tiger. A robotic tiger? Now that we want to see.
Next: 6. HP labs photonics