A Design News editor was lucky enough to watch two robotic jellyfish swim and fly at the Hannover Fair in Germany. These two robots, AquaJelly and AirJelly, made by Germany-based Festo company, are using 8 tentacles based on fish fins for propulsion. The AquaJelly has 11 infrared light-emitting diodes and communicates with a central station by using the short-range radio standard ZigBee. AquaJellies also can collaborate to solve a large problem by autonomously picking single. Obviously, the AirJelly has a somewhat different body to float into the air, a helium-filled balloon. Markus Fischer, Head Of Corporate Design at Festo, says these robots 'will be very useful in the factory of the future.' After watching short videos on Festo's website, all I can say is these are 'beautiful' robots. But I'm not really sure of what they could be useful for. But read more...
You can see above several Festo's AquaJellies robots. (Credit: Festo) This image was picked from a Festo's document, Bionic Learning Network: Inspired by nature, which gives more details about the AquaJelly. "AquaJelly is an artificial autonomous jellyfish with an electric drive and an intelligent, adaptive mechanical system. AquaJelly consists of a translucent hemisphere and eight tentacles used for propulsion. At the centre of the AquaJelly is a watertight, laser-sintered pressure vessel. This comprises a central, electric drive, two lithium-ion-polymer batteries, the charge control device and the servo motors for the swashplate."
And here is how an AquaJelly can communicate with the outside world. "For communication on the water surface, the AquaJelly can use the energy-conserving short-range radio standard ZigBee, which enables it to exchange status details with the charger and signal to other AquaJellies on the surface that the charger is occupied. The main communication medium under water, however, is light. The AquaJelly has eleven infrared light-emitting diodes with which it can communicate over distances of up to approx. 80 cm. The pulsed infrared signals are sent from inside an almost spherical structure around the AquaJelly. On receiving a position signal from an approaching jellyfish, for example, the AquaJelly can start its evasion manoeuvre in plenty of time. In addition to environment sensors, the AquaJelly also has internal sensors which monitor its energy level."
And this is how several AquaJellies could collaborate. "Each jellyfish decides autonomously which action to carry out on the basis of its current condition. This central electric drive, combined with an adaptive mechanical system and intelligent autonomous electronics, opens up possible new applications for self-controlling systems. If a large number of AquaJellies were equipped with communicative abilities, these could act like a shoal with the behaviour pattern of a more highly developed system. If one applies this principle to automation, then numerous autonomous or semi-autonomous intelligent systems might be able to work together."
Now, let's look at the AirJelly that you can see above. (Credit: Festo) Here are some details from the company. "Rather than swimming through water like the AquaJelly, it glides through the air with the aid of its central electric drive and an intelligent, adaptive mechanical system. The remote-controlled AirJelly is kept in the air by its helium-filled ballonet. The AirJelly’s only energy source are two lithium-ion-polymer batteries, to which the central electric drive is attached. This transmits its power to a bevel gear and then to eight spur gears, which drive the eight tentacles of the jellyfish via their respective cranks. [...] Using a peristaltic movement to drive a balloon was previously unknown in the history of aviation. The AirJelly is the first indoor flying object to use such a peristaltic propulsion system."
But even after watching these movies, I don't really understand why someone would use these robots. Any clues? Drop me a note.
Sources: Joseph Ogando, Design News, April 22, 2008; and Festo website
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