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Snakebot Inventor to Speak at JCC in Manhattan

Snakebot Inventor to Speak at JCC in Manhattan

July 21, 2009

Robotics & High-Tech

Through special effects, the robots in the film Transformers do unbelievable things. But real-life robots are also doing incredible things, thanks to the scientific breakthroughs of one leading Israeli robot expert.

Dr. Amir Shapiro, head of robotics at Ben-Gurion University of the Negev’s Robotics Lab has developed a snake robot, that will be used by the military to be able to maneuver through tough terrain and record images. There’s also a wall-scaling robot that has capacity to climb by shooting an adhesive to a wall.

Shapiro, who will speak and hold a demonstration at the JCC of Manhattan on July 21, spoke of his most ambitious idea.

“I want to create a car that can fly without a driver,” he told The Blueprint in a phone interview.  “The more I hear that an idea is impossible, the more I want to do it. That’s what attracts me.

“That’s what motivates me. And of course, a lot of the research is out of necessity.”

While some boys might read Sports Illustrated, hoping to one day be featured as a star baseball or basketball player, Shapiro said he grew up reading Popular Science, imagining an article about his scientific work. Last month, Shapiro got his wish, as his interview appeared in the magazine. The focus was on the battlefield snakebot and the wall-scaling snailbot.

“I feel like it is the closing of a circle,” he said.

Shapiro added that he drew inspiration from animal movements, as well as films. While it might seem like an idea from Mission Impossible to have a robot with a camera that could scale a wall and provide intelligence to help rescue someone kidnapped by a terrorist, Shapiro said that through science and funding, these things can become reality.

“Making machines that actually work and can do sophisticated things and solve complex problems is something I’ve wanted to do for a long time,” he said. “It is really an honor and it’s fun.”

Shapiro is at work on agricultural robotics, where accurate and selective spraying can target specific fruit in vineyards. He is also working on a treadmill that can move from side to side and back to simulate an obstacle. The point of this device is to help improve balance for the elderly or those in rehab.

While it’s at times frustrating solving solutions and rewarding to create new robots, Shapiro said he’s working tirelessly to advance robot innovation with a range of projects that include military, commercial and private use.

“My projects are never ending,” the 37-year-old said.

“The Robotic Future” will take place at 6:30 p.m and is sponsored by the Greater New York Region of American Associates, Ben Gurion University of the Negev (AABGU).