From giant mechanical jellyfish and manta rays to birds, the field of robotics is quickly moving up the evolutionary chain. In response to DARPA’s Robotics Challenge, NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory has produced a bot that mimics the motions of monkeys. The RoboSimian has been designed for search and rescue missions, and like its living counterparts, it can swing and climb through its environment with ease.
While other competitors for the Robotics Challenge have chosen to fabricate more humanoid machines, JPL decided to take inspiration from a slightly more primitive source. The RoboSimian features four general purpose limbs, and no defined back or front. Without the need for a head, the robot has an increased range of motion and can quickly adjust and operate in any direction.
The RoboSimian is still under construction, and the model is awaiting the installation of hands and feet. The JPL team has partnered with Stanford University to design structures that will be able to grasp and manipulate objects. The DARPA contest is slated to begin in December, and the group at NASA has high hopes that the mechanical monkey will be able to accomplish the competition’s established tasks such as drive a utility vehicle, open doors, climb ladders and stairs, and break through walls. Knowing the kind of feats that real monkeys can achieve in the wild, JPL is looking forward to seeing what its artificial animal can accomplish.