Evolution ridded us of tails, but now researchers want to bring them back

Mar 2012
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Evolution gave human ancestors big brains and bipedalism, among other attributes that our species has retained to this day. But it took away their tails.

Now, designers in Japan are looking to give them back.


A team at Keio University in Tokyo has created a jointed appendageworn at the waist that they say could help steady people with balance problems and provide an extra margin of safety for construction workers and other physical laborers working in precarious or physically challenging environments.

The robo-tail, which was presented in July at a conference in Los Angeles, looks cute, in a T. rex sort of way. But the researchers say the tail is less about being adorable and more about augmenting our physical abilities.

A video shows how the tail could boost balance. As the wearer bends over, the tail automatically curls up like that of a curious cat; when he stands back up, the tail flops down. When the wearer bends his torso to the left, the tail swings to the right. Of course, wearing a tail at home is one thing, venturing out in public with it is quite another. Cosplayers and furries might get a kick out of wearing a bobbing, swinging skeletal tail, but construction workers and people with impaired balance might be a harder sell.

Patton said he could see the tail being used in a rehabilitation setting, with patients recovering from neurological or orthopedic injuries wearing the tail as they practice walking on a treadmill.

This robotic tail gives humans key abilities that evolution took away