Prototype wall climbing robot, 'Spider', aluminium tubing / electronic components, made at the Department of Mechatronics, University of Southern Queensland, Australia, 1998-1999
John Billingsley, the Professor of Robotics at the University of Southern Queensland, began his career as a mathematician in Portsmouth in the UK. He developed auto-pilots for the aeronautical industry, and then went on to study control theory. He saw that the best way to apply control theory was via robotics. Professor Billingsley has developed many robots at the University of Southern Queensland, and advanced Australia's standing in the area of Robotics.
Robotics is a field of mechanical automation and computing that has fascinated scientists and the general public alike since the sixteenth century, when Jacques de Vaucanson developed a group of complex automata in France. It is an area of technology that has become as much a part of popular culture as it has of industry. 'Spider' captures the imagination with its innovative use, commercial potential and interesting design.
The object represents a stage in robotics that has advanced from programming and mechanically automating robots to developing relatively independent thinking and moving robots - such as Honda's Asimo robot.
The idea of using an animal's anatomy and movement and applying it to machines is not new. Hargrave did just that in the late 19th century with his designs for human flight. However, the concept is again being seriously considered and used to solve the issues of mobility for robots. In this case the way a spider can effortlessly climb a vertical surface has been emulated mechanically and electronically. Professor Billingsley and his team at the University of Southern Queensland have also developed a toad robot designed to move and climb much the same way as a toad does in nature.
The 'Spider' robot was conceived and made at the Department of Mechatronics, University of Southern Queensland, Australia, 1998-1999.
The robot was developed by Professor Billingsley and his students when students began expanding on work Professor Billingsley had done earlier in the UK. Professor Billingsley had designed robots called NEROs (Nuclear Electric Robots) that could climb vertical surfaces so they could access highly hostile and inaccessible environments in nuclear reactors. 'Spider' was developed for potential application in the areas of security, cleaning, surveillance, and assessing and repairing inaccessible areas of construction and engineering.
This object was offered to the Museum by the University of Southern Queensland in 1999 to be displayed in the 'Universal Machine' exhibition (now 'Cyberworlds'). The prototype robot was developed to ascend vertical and odd shaped surfaces. The primary aim of the project was independent mobility of robots in inaccessible terrain for humans.