Snakey Robots: Beautiful and Clever

I’ve been reading a lot about various alternative robot locomotion (e.g., in Seveneves), including “snake” robots. Since I’m not really up to date on any kind of robot locomotion, it’s all equally magical to me. Snakes seem so elegantly simple, it’s really cool to watch—but there is a lot going on under the surface (See, perhaps [1]).

The Biorobotics Lab at CMU recently demonstrated some awesome snakes. Actually, “modular snakes”.

Cool! And these little guys can do some unbelievable stuff, climbing, hanging and swimming better than I ever could. It’s easy to see why the Pentagon would be interested.

This lab is studying bio-inspired robotics, and clearly the snake bots are modeled after our herp friends. It is not clear whether or to what degree the robots emulate the biological models. I.e., this may be bioinspired but not really biomimetic.

That’s a niggly point, that probably hinges on an interpretation of how the robots “interpret” snakiness. (“School of” herp?)

It’s fun to think about scaling these guys up and down. Really tiny versions could deliver drugs or precisely fertilize fileds (they’d be kind of “earthworm” bots in the latter case). Scaled up to, say, the size of a bus…I’m not sure what it would be for, but it might be good for clearing and leveling an area. Get out of the way, puny humans! Could you ride inside a big one? Would you want to?

  1. David Rollinson, Austin Buchan, and Howie Choset, Virtual Chassis for Snake Robots: Definition and Applications. Advanced Robotics, 26 (17):2043-2064, 2012.


Robot Wednesday

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