Pleurobot is not just a robot that swims; it’s the most realistic robotic animal ever programed. This robotic salamander hails from the biorobotics lab at the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology (EPFL). The funky looking amphibious robot can walk and crawl just like the real thing, and it can even don a wetsuit and swim the same way a real salamander does. Its developers are hoping to use the robot to learn more about animal evolution and spinal therapy.

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Developers tracked 64 different points on a ‘real’ salamander spine to build its robotic counterpart. The result is the most accurate robotic animal likely ever made, according to Auke Injspeert, the professor heading up the biorobotics lab. The motivation for building a robot salamander stems was spurred in large part by the desire to find new therapies for people with spinal injuries. In order to do that, scientists want to go back to the origins of land-walking animals, especially as animal spines evolved from marine life to land. Salamanders represent the best of both worlds, with characteristics of both classes of animals, so a robot salamander makes a lot of sense in terms of pursuing medical breakthroughs in spinal therapy.

Related: New spinal implant may allow people who are paralyzed to walk

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The EPFL biorobotics lab is actually working on a whole host of robotic amphibians and other critters, including an earlier version of the salamander , as well as a snake and a walking fish. In addition to using the robots for research, the developers are also building them for practical applications. Biorobotics engineers are looking to these amphibious robots to perform tasks in the water, such as search and rescue.

Via Tech Insider

Images via Konstantinos Karakasiliotis & Robin Thandiackal/BioRob, EPFL