While robots aren’t the ubiquitous household companions many science-fiction novels and films imagined in the last century, they are increasingly being put to work...

While robots aren’t the ubiquitous household companions many science-fiction novels and films imagined in the last century, they are increasingly being put to work in a variety of specialised fields. Following are six robots that could soon prove helpful in monitoring the environment, improving efficiency and enabling other types of cleantech innovations:

better-place-battery-switchRobotic Battery Changer

Earlier this year, Better Place, a leader in the call for electric-powered vehicles (EVs), unveiled a fully automated battery-changing system for EV owners. While a driver stays comfortably in the vehicle, the system uses two robotic shuttles — one to remove the depleted car battery, the other to replace it with a fully charged one — to recharge an electric car in less time than it takes to fill a tank with petrol.

Smoky the Fish Robot

robot-smoky_skelettOver at Germany’s Technische Universität Darmstadt, researchers have developed a prototype fish robot based on their analyses of videos showing how fish move through water. Nicknamed “Smoky,” the 1.5-metre-long prototype features an elastic skin that covers 10 “body” segments that enable the robot to move in a snaking motion. The research team hope such a robot could one day be used to propel ships through environmentally sensitive areas where conventional ship screws could produce shoreline erosion, churn up sea- or riverbeds and disturb marine plants and animals.

Robot House

The University of Hertfordshire’s “Robot House” aims to demonstrate how robots can be helpful companions to humans. The project’s goal, according to Kerstin Dautenhahn and her team at the university’s School of Computer Science, is to develop companion robots that can not only serve as useful assistants in the home but that also behave in a manner that is socially acceptable and comfortable to its users.

Adam and Eve

Ross King and fellow researchers at Aberystwyth University have developed a robotic scientist — Adam — that not only doesn’t grow tired or bored from the “difficult and irksome” complexities of biological experiments, but has actually already made an independent new discovery about the genomics of a type of baker’s yeast. The team’s next goal: a second robot, to be named Eve, that will be tasked with helping to find new drugs for tropical diseases like malaria and schistosomiasis.

robot-ratSCRATCHbot

SCRATCHbot, a whiskered, robotic rat, could one day lead to such innovations as smart vacuum cleaners that can sense where dirt is, or to rescue-bots that can search for survivors in smoke-filled areas where humans can’t see. The robo-rodent was developed by researchers from the Bristol Robotics Lab, (a partnership between the University of the West of England and the University of Bristol) and the University of Sheffield as part of the pan-European “ICEA” project to develop biologically-inspired artificial intelligence systems.

Robo-Fish

Scientists at the University of Essex envision a different type of robotic fish than “Smoky.” They’re working to develop a robo-fish that can work on its own or in “schools” to monitor water quality and pollution levels in EU ports. The robots would be equipped with chemical sensors and would be controlled using advanced swarm intelligence techniques so they could quickly adapt to changes in the environment.


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