The UK’s Department for Business, Innovation & Skills has recently invested a further £600million into a variety of science and engineering projects. This is good news for those who are looking to develop their careers within these sectors – particularly, as it turns out, if you have a keen interest in mechanical engineering and robotics.

Robotics has been named as one of the ‘eight great technologies’ which would help the UK to stay ahead in the global race for future growth, and thus benefit from a government funding boost. A total of £35 million has been allocated towards developing “centres of excellence in robotics and autonomous systems to be created in and around universities, innovation centres, science parks and enterprise sites”. In addition, a further £1 million is to be invested in a Technology Strategy Board competition, which is designed to help “accelerate the development of concepts where robots are able to interact with each other and humans.”

With the robotic aspect of mechanical engineering at the cutting edge of industry developments and prioritised within government spending plans, it’s little surprise that this is proving to be a popular sector for aspiring engineers.

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With this in mind, here are five of the top recent robotic inventions which could well inspire the next generation of autonomous creations:

1. ASIMO

One of the most widely recognised robots, this android creation from Honda was designed to help humans who lack full physical ability. First unveiled in 2000, ASIMO was one of the first robots to demonstrate the ability to walk like a human, but has since undergone several significant upgrades – the latest of which enabled several ASIMO robots to interact and work together.

2. Curiosity

NASA’s roving robot, Curiosity, made headlines last year when it was sent to explore Mars and started sending back data regarding the environment of the planet’s Gale Crate. Curiosity will go into autonomous mode for approximately 25 days during April and early May 2013 whilst the sun blocks the pathway between Mars and the Earth in a solar conjunction.

3. Cheetah

Cheetah is the fasted four-legged robot engineered to date, reaching speeds of up to 28mph. This robot features an articulated back which is able to flex back and forth in order to achieve high running speeds in a similar way to that of its feline namesake. Currently, Cheetah is confined to running on a treadmill but Wildcat, the next generation of the Cheetah bot, is already in development and designed to operate untethered.

4. Matt Denton’s Mantis

Hampshire-based robotics enthusiast Matt Denton was recently revealed to have developed his very own mantis-like robot, which may be used in future mining or marine projects. With six hydraulic legs, the robot is manually operated and not being particularly efficient, but it certainly looks impressive and this engineering hobbyist is sure to inspire future hexapod designers.

5. Pleo

From Caleb Chung, the creator of the Furby (which also made something of a resurgence during 2012), Pleo is an animatronic toy designed to imitate the appearance of a week-old baby Camarasaurus dinosaur. Despite not achieving the dizzying sales figures of the aforementioned Furby, Pleo did hold a certain attraction for robot builders. The most recent incarnation of the robot, PLEO rb, is designed to behave even more like a life-form, whilst no two of these new robots are ever made exactly alike.

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