Saturday, November 10, 2012

University of California Makes a Robotic Squirrel

Biologists studying an interesting interaction between squirrels and rattlesnakes have teamed up with roboticists at University of California to create an artificial squirrel.

Rattlesnakes sense their prey using pit organs that see in infrared.  Some squirrels that interact with the snakes have developed a trick of heating their tail and waving it around as a distraction.  Zoologists are fascinated by this behavior, but it is very difficult to observe in nature.  It takes a lot of patience and luck.  Apparently when the biologists ran out of both, they turned to robots.

Using a taxidermy squirrel, a servomotor, and several independent heating coils, researchers created an artificial squirrel that they could put into harms way with a real rattlesnake and experiment with various heating/tail wagging strategies to see what will work.

It's amazing the things that are created when different disciplines get together.

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