Jurassic spark

时间:2019-03-07 01:04:06166网络整理admin

By Matt Walker IT’S not quite Jurassic Park, but it’s getting there. Engineers on a Europe-wide project are developing life-size robotic dinosaurs that will walk around museums, chew on plants and interact with visitors as if they had just stepped off the prehistoric plains. The designers want each 3.5-metre-long, 80-kilogram robotic iguanodon to be autonomous, making its own decisions about where to go and what to do. It will approach inquisitive visitors, stare at them, and even rear up on its back legs to browse on the nearest potted palm tree. “Usually you have to walk to museum exhibits. In this case the exhibit walks to you,” says designer Vassilios Papantoniou, who works for the European Association for Research in Legged Robots in Lamia, Greece. The robot will be built from composite resins and aviation-grade aluminium. Its movements are based on what is known from iguanodon fossils and studies of modern animals. “A real dinosaur has hundreds of muscles,” says zoologist R. McNeill Alexander of Leeds University, a scientific adviser to the project. “So we’ve had to compromise.” The major muscles are replicated using battery-powered actuators. “We’ve got three in each leg,” he says. The actuators are controlled by their own microprocessors, which are linked to the central processor that controls the beast. A 2-metre-long prototype has already been completed. “It’s not walking as fast as we’d like,” says McNeill Alexander. The designers want the full-size version to be able to roam for two hours at speeds of up to one metre per second before its batteries need recharging. The robot iguanodon will detect ultrasound echoes from obstacles in its way, just as bats do. Cameras will give it a crude sense of vision, says Papantoniou, while infrared sensors will pick up the body heat of people. The beast will simulate breathing, blinking, grasping and chewing. For safety—no museum wants 80 kilograms of metal and plastic falling on its visitors—a ceiling-mounted camera will track the robot’s movements. If it moves outside a designated area, a radio signal will shut it down. “It has to be in contact with its master,