Meet the Lizard Robot That Could Save Your Life

Scientists developed robotic lizards in a collaboration combining robotics, math, biology, and artificial intelligence. The robots helped solve an evolutionary puzzle and could be the first step towards a new generation of wiggling robots. The team used AI to study the movement of various lizard species. Some species have tiny legs while others have no legs at all and have long puzzled biologists. Are they a link between lizards and snakes? The video below reveals the variety of lizard locomotion. It also shows off the robot, which can change the length of its limbs and how its body drags on the ground to emulate the range found in nature.

The peer-reviewed journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences published the data of this wide-ranging collaboration. “We were interested in why and how these intermediate lizards use their bodies and limbs to move around in different terrestrial environments,” says one of the study’s authors, Daniel Goldman. “This is a fundamental question in locomotion biology and can inspire more capable wiggling robots.” 

Ideas for how to use these wiggling robots include search and rescue operations or even as part of space exploration. Says Goldman, “With the robophysical models, we can develop principles that can also inform the next generation of robots that might have to crawl around in rubble or move around in extraterrestrial environments like the surface of moons or planets.” 

Side by side photos of a long lizard with tiny legs and a robot made to simulate lizard movements
Georgia Institute of Technology

Can you imagine a rescue in which a lizard robot wiggled its way to you? The same type of lizard robot that is wiggling its way across the Moon or even Mars. By then, the rats being trained for search and rescue operations may also be in the field. Or even a flying robot baby. It’s quite a future.  

Melissa is Nerdist’s science & technology staff writer. She also moderates “science of” panels at conventions and co-hosts Star Warsologies, a podcast about science and Star Wars. Follow her on Twitter @melissatruth. 

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