Of all the great leaps forward in robot technology, few could have seen the excitement, the potential, or even the point of bionic penguins... Until the debut of these almost-lifelike German pengborgs.
The bionic penguins can twist and turn almost as gracefully as their living counterparts because of the flexible glass fibre rods that control their heads. The fibres are arranged around the side of each penguin's head, while motors inside the body pull on one or more of them to twist the penguin's neck in any direction and guide the swimmer... [The design] has been adapted by Festo to make a flexible, trunk-like arm with a gripper on the end for use in industrial applications. The arm can twist up to 90° in any direction, giving it an unrivalled degree of dexterity.
More excitingly, Festo have also created versions of the penguins that can be filled with helium gas, and "swim" through the air. Quite why they have done any of this, meanwhile, remains a mystery.
Bionic penguins take to the water – and the skies [New Scientist]