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Monday, 2 September, 2002, 09:17 GMT 10:17 UK
Organic robot mimics sea life
Public Anemone
The robot is set in an alien world
An organic robot designed to imitate primitive life forms has been created by scientists in the US.

The Public Anemone is a robot set in a rock pool filled with greenish water which reacts to light and touch, much like an real sea anemone.

The researchers at the Massachusetts Institute of technology in Boston see their robot as a way of exploring artificial life.

They hope to gain insights into how to create robots that can behave and interact naturally with humans.

Sea life

"Robots don't have to be hard and mechanical, they can be organic, move naturally and be supple," said Cynthia Breazeal of the Media Lab at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology in Boston.

Cynthia Breazeal of MIT
Breazeal: Robots don't have to be metallic
"The idea is inspired by a more primitive form of life, so it looks almost like a cross between a plant and an animal," she told the BBC programme Go Digital.

The Public Anemone has a flexible spine-like body. Around it are fibre optic wires, supposed to represent nematode worms, that pull in if you touch them.

The robotic creature is set in an aquarium so that the researchers can watch how people interact with something that appears organic but is in reality mechanical.

Alien world

"It moves in a serpentine motion, a very graceful motion and is covered in a silicon skin so it has a soft texture to it," said Professor Breazeal.

Robot mimics animal behaviour
Being a robot is thirsty work
The robot is set in its own rock garden, with more than 100 elements such as the lighting and sound effects controlled by computer.

The set is supposed to represent an interactive alien world.

"Every now and then the anemone breaks from its chores in order to look at you, find your face, orient towards it. and if you reach it and startle it, it withdraws."

The Public Anemone was recently showcased at the world's leading computer graphics conference, Siggraph, in the US.

See also:

04 Jun 02 | Science/Nature
19 May 02 | Science/Nature
13 Nov 01 | Science/Nature
21 Feb 02 | Science/Nature
11 Sep 01 | Artificial intelligence
21 Sep 01 | Artificial intelligence
20 Aug 02 | Technology
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