The December 2022 issue of IEEE Spectrum is here!

Close bar

Cowabunga: Swiss Boffins Working on Robot Turtle

Naro-Tartaruga is a robotic sea turtle from ETH Zurich

2 min read
Cowabunga: Swiss Boffins Working on Robot Turtle

Of all the scary and dangerous robot animals, turtles are almost (but not quite) on the very bottom of the list, just above robotic baby harp seals.* But that's fine, because turtles are great at lots of things that aren't scary and dangerous (like swimming around in the vast and heartless ocean), and researchers in a certain landlocked European country that isn't Austria are working to make a new one.

Naro-Tartaruga is a robotic sea turtle from ETH Zurich. The reason to go with a sea turtle, as opposed to something boring like a fish, is because sea turtles are both easier to construct and better for carrying payload. Unlike a fish, sea turtles (or sturts as we call them in the biz) don't have articulated bodies, but they do have big fat shells that you can fill with all kinds of cool stuff like sensors and batteries and, er, cooler things than that. Propulsion and steering come from flapping fins, just like the real thing. And with a top speed of just over 7 kph, Naro-Tartaruga will be leaving most real sea turtles in the dust (or whatever the underwater equivalent is).

Looks pretty sexy to me, but then, I'm kinda into the whole flipper thing. That said, we're also really linking the shell in the concept image, which appears to come equipped with either jet thrusters or rear-firing photon torpedos.

Naro-Tartaruga is scheduled to take its first underwater jaunt sometime later this month.

[ Naro-Tartaruga ]

Thanks @grok_!

*Caution: Paro comes equipped with an unlockable brutality mode. Users are advised not to place Paro in situations in which it might feel threatened. Doing so may subject the user to death, dismemberment, hurt feelings, and/or death, and will void Paro's warranty.

The Conversation (0)

The Bionic-Hand Arms Race

The prosthetics industry is too focused on high-tech limbs that are complicated, costly, and often impractical

12 min read
A photograph of a young woman with brown eyes and neck length hair dyed rose gold sits at a white table. In one hand she holds a carbon fiber robotic arm and hand. Her other arm ends near her elbow. Her short sleeve shirt has a pattern on it of illustrated hands.

The author, Britt Young, holding her Ottobock bebionic bionic arm.

Gabriela Hasbun. Makeup: Maria Nguyen for MAC cosmetics; Hair: Joan Laqui for Living Proof

In Jules Verne’s 1865 novel From the Earth to the Moon, members of the fictitious Baltimore Gun Club, all disabled Civil War veterans, restlessly search for a new enemy to conquer. They had spent the war innovating new, deadlier weaponry. By the war’s end, with “not quite one arm between four persons, and exactly two legs between six,” these self-taught amputee-weaponsmiths decide to repurpose their skills toward a new projectile: a rocket ship.

The story of the Baltimore Gun Club propelling themselves to the moon is about the extraordinary masculine power of the veteran, who doesn’t simply “overcome” his disability; he derives power and ambition from it. Their “crutches, wooden legs, artificial arms, steel hooks, caoutchouc [rubber] jaws, silver craniums [and] platinum noses” don’t play leading roles in their personalities—they are merely tools on their bodies. These piecemeal men are unlikely crusaders of invention with an even more unlikely mission. And yet who better to design the next great leap in technology than men remade by technology themselves?

Keep Reading ↓Show less