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Robot Animals

by Yuki Ohashi, staff writer

Imagine yourself in a world where nature’s smallest animals are blown up 100 times their normal size. Well, technology can do that and even animate these oversized creatures, as you’ll discover at The Robot Zoo, a collection of high-tech computer-animated animal robots on display at Bishop Museum through Sep. 3.

By exploring this world of giant animal robots, visitors can discover how the real animals function through experiencing their biomechanical counterparts.

Click on image for larger view

The exhibit features eight larger-than-life-size animal robots and 16 hands-on activities. Each mechanical robot is displayed in the context of its natural habitat. The smallest are a grasshopper and a house fly. The largest are a giraffe and a rhinoceros. In between are a bat, a chameleon, a platypus, and a squid.

The interactive displays offer visitors hands-on applications of science concepts, from the fluid movements of the giant squid’s 18-foot tentacles, to the speed of a chameleon’s tongue as it shoots out its long, sticky tip to reel in a meal. A computer simulation of squid propulsion lets visitors use computational fluid dynamics (CFD) – computer calculations – to study fluids in motion. On an O2 workstation, visitors see how far they can propel a digital squid by manipulating the interaction between nerves and muscles.

“Tongue Gun” shows how chameleon’s long tongue catches food as visitors trigger a joystick on the model of a robot chameleon’s head. “Mister Platypus,” another of the hands-on activities, allows visitors to play with evolution as they add parts to a 9-foot long platypus model. By using a computer workstation, visitors can interact with a three-dimensional, computer-aided design (CAD) rhino model in a Virtual Reality Modeling Language (VRML) where technology brings to life an “animated 3-D world” environment.

Visitors also can interact with a computer paint program, where they can create color patterns that post instantaneously on TV monitors covering the 10-foot long robot – chameleon’s body. Bishop Museum is located at 1525 Bernice Street and is open daily from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Admission is $14.95 for adults, $11.95 for children ages 4-12, and free for members ($35 a year) and ages 3 and younger. Explore the world of animals and discover what makes them work at The Robot Zoo, where computer technology mimics nature.



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