nancy Techie Tues 9-2-97

Visit a zoo where the animals drink motor oil and blink with digitial eyes! Inspired by the book, see how technology can almost come to life in a brand new Robot Zoo!


Visit the Robot Zoo at The Tech Museum of Innovation in downtown San Jose if you get out to California sometime soon. The residents of the Robot Zoo are eight giant robot animals. Its purpose is to demonstrate the many adaptations that allow animals to survive, and to show off technologies people use to do the same!

According to the San Jose Mercury News, “The star is a 9-foot chameleonthat changes color as it rocks back and forth, turning its head, swiveling its eyes and firing its tongue at insect prey, and you can influence its color.

“There also are a giant bat, a grasshopper, a housefly with a 10-foot wingspread, a duckbill platypus, a giant squid with 18-foot tentacles, a giraffe whose head and neck stretch 9 feet, and a rhinoceros.

The Original BookThe exhibit is based on a children’s book of the same name by John Kelly. “Nature is a master engineer and has designed every animal to be specially suited to its surroundings,” Kelly wrote. “You would have thought that each animal was a carefully planned machine, because every one is specifically adapted to its lifestyle.”

The Robot Zoo is based on two technologies — compressed air mechanics controlled by interactive 3-dimensional computing systems. Hoses feed compressed air into a bank of computer-controlled valves to operate the robot’s movement. Some of the other robots have small air compressors within their bodies. In the case of the chameleon, knew the original design of the robot included television monitors on its back that match a changing background.

Tech spokesman Miguel Salinas said “It conveys Mother Nature as an engineer, and illustrates with mechanical parts you find around you every day. It shows how natural animal bodies work.”