Robotic salamander walks on land, swims in water

salamander ii© Kostas Karakasiliotis, Biorobotics Laboratory, EPFL

We have seen our fair share of nature-inspired robots, from a water strider bot that walks on water to a faster-than-Usain-Bolt robotic cheetah that runs on land, and we never cease to be amazed by the technological advances we gain from merely mimicking what already exists in nature. The latest amazing robot we've come across is called the Salamander II, an amphibious robot that is capable of transitioning between walking on dry land and swimming in water.

We've seen amphibious robots before, like this snake whose slithering motion could propel it across land and through the water, but this one, developed by the Biorobotics Laboratory of École Polytechnique Fédérale de Lausanne (EPFL) in Switzerland, is possibly the first that is capable of three separate locomotive processes: walking, crawling and swimming.

salamander ii a© Kostas Karakasiliotis, Biorobotics Laboratory, EPFL

Gizmag reports, "To do this, the group had to essentially build a mock-up of a salamander's vertebrae and limbs that could alter its stance depending on whether it was traversing in water or not. Walking is simply handled by rotating the limbs, but reproducing the wave-like swimming motions requires a system of coupled nonlinear oscillators. A human controller can then use a laptop to wirelessly issue commands to an on-board microcontroller to change its motion, speed, and direction. The result is the first robot that's equally capable of swimming like a fish, crawling like a snake, and walking like a lizard."

Another cool aspect of this robot is its modularity. Each module contains its own microcontroller, battery and motors so that it can be split into different parts and still work, which would be especially useful in search and rescue operations where it may have to navigate difficult obstacles. If part of the robot gets damaged or lost, the rest can continue on.

You can watch a video of the Salamander II in action below.

Robotic salamander walks on land, swims in water
The amphibious robot mimics the crawling and swimming movements of the salamander so that it can easily transition between land and water.

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