Ultra-Realistic Robot Creatures Are Spies in the Wild



What happens when you combine EPFL’s first-class robotic engineering with the BBC’s first-class special effects? You get reptilian robots that look and move (almost) like the real thing, and as a bonus, a scientific tool for studying biology and for improving search and rescue robotics.

image credit: JohnDownerProd

But the reptilian robots are much more than remote-controlled spies. For the EPFL roboticists, these robots provide a tool for studying animal locomotion and biomechanics in future research.

Secrets Behind the Spy Creatures – Spy in the Wild

video credit: JohnDownerProd

EPFL scientists designed, built and remote-controlled the robotic structures of a crocodile and a lizard for a field experiment, in the depths of Africa, in collaboration with the BBC. The robots are featured in today’s episode of “Spy in the Wild”.


The design process involved studying the crocodiles and monitor lizards in order to reproduce the walking movement of these creatures.

This involved imitating joints with motors, bones with aluminium and carbon fiber, and skin with a waterproof suit made out of latex. A mini-computer, wired to the 24 motors needed to make the reptiles move, could be remote-controlled as far as 500 meters away.