Building robots that move with the motion and adaptability of living things is difficult. Coding a simple, nonmobile bot is somewhat less so.
So why not let nature do the hard work and couple a robot brain with a living body? Korea Advanced Institute of Science and Technology did just that. You could describe this as a symbiotic merging of machine and animal; the researchers went with the decidedly more creepy “parasitic robot system.”
This video above shows the robot “parasite” attached to a turtle. After training the turtle by cueing it with lights associated with snacks, the robot effectively recruits the turtle to be its body, swimming where and when it is told. In this case, it swims toward targets marked in red for the benefit of human viewers.
Creepy as it may be, researchers suggest it may prove useful in situations where humans and more conventional robots can’t access a remote area; mice and birds could be next. In the meantime, anyone decently read in science fiction may glance more cautiously at those blinking lights, chimes, and other stimuli coming from the devices on our wrists and in our pockets.