Robotic Swans

Robotic Swan

Photo © Copyright Andrew Curtis and licensed for reuse under this Creative Commons Licence

There seems to be no end to the types of robots inspired by nature.  This story about robotic swans had its start in an article that appeared in Tech Times several days ago.  As I thought about how to write about these “swanbots”, I did some research about robotic swans and found that this application is not the first use of swans as a model for robot development.

In fact, the first “robotic” swan was probably this Silver Swan  pictured here to the left.  The machine was conceived and constructed by John Joseph Merlin in partnership with the London inventor James Cox in 1773.  It is more accurately an automaton, in that it worked by means of a clockwork mechanism.  An automaton is a self-operating machine… designed to follow automatically a predetermined sequence of operations…

And then we have our second robotic Swan, the dancing Swan, also known as the Dying Swan.  This Swan robot was built to dance to Tchaikovsky’s “Swan Lake.”  As those who have seen it dance describe it,

‘The Dying Swan’ is sometimes moving smoothly and gently, sometimes in a dramatic and fiery manner, as Tchaikovsky’s majestic music from the ballet Swan Lake is playing; yet this is no ordinary ballet dancer, but a robot in the form of a swan.”

Finally, there is are there is the third type of robot Swan that was in the original article that inspired this post.  This is the robot Swan that gathers information about the environment of the water where it swims.  Scientists will start testing robot swans in the Singapore River that will test and monitor the waters for things like pH level and oxygen to control pollution.

Nature has once again provided a model for robotics.  In this case three wildly different types of robots based on the model of a Swan.  If this is a topic that you find interesting please leave a comment and let me know what you think.


Wikipedia, Silver Swan (automaton)

Wikipedia, Automaton

ScienceDaily, Dancing Robot Swan Triggers Emotion

EurekAlert, Dancing Robot Swan Triggers Emotion

Popular Science, Robotic Swan Majestically Dances to ‘Swan Lake,’ Moving Viewers to Tears

TechTimes, Robot Swans Swim Singapore River To Test And Monitor The Waters In Real-Time

Weekly Newswrap

This week’s RobotNext Newswrap brings you five stories with a robot-animal theme.  In the case of the Bloodbot from Thursday, it was not built to mimic a vampire bat, the story only makes that connection to express what might be a common fear about this machine.  And, the pet care robot does not recreate an animal, it is designed to take care of your animal.  The other three stories are all about biomimetics.  There are Panda robots, a robot arm modeled after an octopus arm, and a robotic guide dog concept.  Check out the stories at the links below.

Taiwan lab develops panda robot

… of scientists hopes to add new dimensions to the island's reputation as a high-tech power. The Centre for Intelligent Robots Research aims to develop pandas that are friendlier and more artistically endowed than their endangered real-life …

Taiwan lab develops panda robot
Sat, 19 Sep 2009 04:15:51 GMT

Bloodbot combines your worst vampire and robot fears » Coolest Gadgets

Bloodbot combines your worst vampire and robot fears on Coolest Gadgets.
Coolest Gadgets –

Bloodbot combines your worst vampire and robot fears » Coolest Gadgets
Mark R
Thu, 17 Sep 2009 00:41:16 GMT

Acrobatic Octopus Arm Could Be Model for Flexible Robots – Wired News  

Acrobatic Octopus Arm Could Be Model for Flexible Robots
Wired News
“This is very important for robotics. If you build a robot with many degrees of freedom, it becomes very difficult to control.” said Laschi, who was not

Acrobatic Octopus Arm Could Be Model for Flexible Robots – Wired News
Thu, 17 Sep 2009 22:47:55 GMT

Michigan Students to Develop RFID-enabled Robotic Guide Dog

After developing an RFID-enabled cane, Central Michigan University students hope to use what they've learned to create a robot that can read EPC Gen 2 tags to guide the blind.

Michigan Students to Develop RFID-enabled Robotic Guide Dog
Tue, 15 Sep 2009 15:48:05 GMT

PetCare Robot Concept is Quite Worthy


But, if you have one of these robots at home, you don't have to worry about your pet at all – the robot acts as a spare guardian of your pet.
See all stories on this topic

PetCare Robot Concept is Quite Worthy
Mon, 14 Sep 2009 12:59:05 GMT

Israel’s New Robots Modeled on Animals’ Movements

Returning to one of my favorite subjects, here is a post I found on robots designed from biological models.   The robot pictured below is a snakebot.  Israeli robot builders seem to love serpents as a model for robots.  Click on the serpents link above to see an earlier post on RobotNext about an Israeli Defense Forces robot that is to be used for recon missions.

NY1's Technology performer Adam Balkin filed the report this story is taken from.  The innovative robots were developed by Ben-Gurion University of the Negev in Israel. Their creator, Amir Shapiro, finds inspiration in nature.  Specifically, he studies how animals move.  "We actually look at nature and try to copy but we cannot copy exactly because we have different materials and actuators," says Shapiro. "So we try to mimic nature — it's called biomimetics."

He has created two robotic snakes for search and rescue missions.  One of his creations can climb nearly vertical surfaces such a metal ship hull by using magnets to attach to the surface.  In the story, Shapiro shows other robots that he is working with that are based on LEGO NXT kits.  He makes the point that robots can be developed and build using very inexpensive materials.  Computing power is readily available, so very innovative robots can be build by anyone with the necessary knowledge and skill.

His point is well taken.  Robots have a use where the environment is too dangerous for humans, but robots also have a role to play in recreation.  To see one of the robot snakes in action, click on the video credit link below.

Video Credit:  NY1

New Israeli Robots Move Like Animals
A robot builder from Israel says he often draws inspiration from actual animals when designing metal ones. NY1's Technology performer Adam Balkin filed the

New Israeli Robots Move Like Animals – NY1 

by Adam Balkin
Thu, 23 Jul 2009 15:45:03 GMT

Robot Animals Help Study Nature

Robots are being dressed up like animals in order to blend in with wildlife and help research their real-life counterparts in nature.  There are robotic birds, bees, and lizards.  RobotNext has many articles on robots that are modeled on nature.  This is a slightly different take in that the robots are imitating nature in order to study the animals. 


Credit:  Popular Science, Illustrations by Bradley R. Hughes

Robots That Dress Like Animals for Science
Popular Mechanics, NY
To better understand animal behavior, scientists are dressing up data-gathering robots in animal garb. By fitting in with their wild, unsuspecting friends, robot bees, turkeys and lizards are recording intimate details of habitats that were never

Robots That Dress Like Animals for Science – Popular Mechanics
Thu, 18 Jun 2009 13:45:53 GMT

Verified by MonsterInsights