Domo Arigato, Mr. Roboto

We’d like to thank this robot (and its team of researchers) very much, for doing the job that nobody wanted to: Explain how the first animals made the transition from ocean to land.

Swiss scientists developed a robotic salamander to illustrate how world’s primitive animals acquired the body structures to switch from swimming in oceans to walking on land. Researchers created the robot from nine plastic segments each containing a battery and a microcontroller, designed to move and slink much like today’s salamander.

From an Associated Press article:

The point was to understand how a spinal cord developed to direct a swimming motion that could handle the different coordination needed between a body and its limbs for walking, according to the team led by Auke Jan Ijspeert of the Ecole Polytechnique Federale in Lausanne, Switzerland.


So they first designed a basic nervous system modeled on that of the lamprey, a long, primitive eel-like fish. Then that design was modified to show how it could evolve into a nervous system that also could control walking.

Unlike Styx’s famed Kilroy of “Mr. Roboto,” who was strictly a land-lubber as far as we know, this robot walks on floors, sandy beaches, and swims in Lake Geneva.

At this point in time, we’d like to apologize for all the Styx puns. But we hope you’re still as impressed by this marvel of science and engineering as we are.



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