Engineers, scientists and other researchers will often look to the natural world to find solutions to problems. That is what a team at the University at Buffalo, New York recently did when it created a beaver-inspired robot which, believe it or not, could turn out to be a lifesaver in a disaster zone.
The robot built by graduate students Maira Saboia Da Silva, Vivek Thangavelu, and others doesn’t physically resemble a beaver. Instead, it’s a mini-rover vehicle which uses a camera, custom software, and a robotic arm to lift and deposit nearby objects — modeled after the way the beaver builds dams from whatever it can find in its location. In this case, however, it uses the nearby objects it finds to build ramps which allow it to overcome obstacles to reach its destination. In the real world, the robot could be used for rescue missions in disaster zones — for instance, utilizing whatever rubble and other objects it can find to help it reach trapped people.