German researchers have focused their efforts on creating a life-like robotic ape capable of moving just like the real thing, using its back feet and front knuckles, and what's cool about this bio-bot is that unlike many others based on large animals (we're looking at you DARPA cheetah), the robotic ape walks forwards, backwards and side to side all without the aid of a tether.
Phys.org reports, "Also new is the approach the team is taking in attempting to replicate the way a real ape moves. Each part of the body is seen as both a single entity and as a part of a larger system. Thus, each body part has been designed to accomplish certain goals as both a single unit and as a part of a larger whole system. The back feet, for example, each have pressure sensors, rather than simple joints. Those sensors provide information to the Control and Information Processing Compartment which relates what the feet are "feeling" to information coming in from other parts of the body."
So far, this approach has created a robotic ape that moves well on all fours, but the researchers' next step is to replace its rigid spine with an accentuated spinal column that would allow it to twist in either direction as well as stand up on its back feet for different maneuvers.
Many nature-inspired robots are created with things like search and rescue missions or environmental sensing and surveillance roles in mind, but the robotic ape may be destined for work beyond Earth. IStruct, the program that created the ape as well as other bio-bots, is funded mainly by the Agency of the German Aerospace Center, so its ultimate mission may be work on space stations, other planets or even piloting spacecraft.