Scientists Develop Robot Lizards
by Kayla Hollis, age 11
Have you ever wondered how prehistoric creatures moved or how their body structures were formed?
Biologist Robert Full has been studying lizards for years. Scientists study modern lizards so they can understand how their bodies move and how they balance. Now Full and his associates at the University of California-Berkeley have built lifelike robots that are quick and well-coordinated. They have also been trying to replicate body structures of prehistoric reptiles to make the robots more stable.
After observing African agama lizards, Full began to create a rugged lizard robot he modeled after them. The robot could navigate through the rubble during an earthquake (or other types of disasters) but would fall over when the ground got too rough. The agama lizards have an amazing ability to make a fantastic landing after leaping through the air. They keep their balance during flight by moving their tails up and down to keep themselves stable. But why couldn’t Full’s robot lizard land the same way?
Full and his team began researching how to build a robot that can stabilize itself if it begins to turn to the left or to the right while in the air.
Full found 40-year-old scientific papers stating that the dinosaur velociraptor had the body to stick a perfect landing, just like modern flying lizards. Even though Full can never test his theory, he made a mathematical model of the way this predator moved. He applied what he learned from its structure to improve his lizard robot. After a couple of months, Full and his team built a foot-long four-wheeled vehicle with a stiff tail, similar to the lizards’ and other reptiles. When they tested the vehicle by driving it off a ramp, it landed better than the lizards — a success for the team.
By studying the anatomy of living and extinct reptiles, scientists have built an artificial robot that can move like a lizard. These robot lizards have the ability to navigate through rubble after an earthquake, which might help humans during future natural disasters.
[Sources: Discover; USA Today]