Earlier this summer, I enthused about “Waddling” robots.
Now let’s have a round of applause for “Wriggling” bots! 
This elegant locomotion system from David Zarrouk and colleagues at Ben Gurion University works astonishingly well. And it is so-o-o simple!
This locomotion is described in some detail in the wonderfully titled Journal, Bioinspiration & Biomimetics .
The principle is very simple, a rotating helix creates a sine wave in the links of the “tread”, which pushes forward or backward depending on the direction of the motor. This can scale to different sizes (I’d love to see one big enough for a human driver!), and, as their video shows, can climb, swim, and moves pretty darn fast!
While this looks simple, getting it right took some clever work, as Zarrouk told IEEE Spectrum. The trick is described by Evan Ackerman as
“As the helix rotates, the links move vertically up and down while also rotating as they flex. Where they contact the ground, the links push off as they rotate, propelling the robot forward. “
The simplicity means that this method might be used in microrobots, e.g., inside the body.
Very nice work indeed.
This certainly looks like a bioinspired robot, though I don’t really know exactly what natural systems work this way. But that’s just my own ignorance of little wriggly things, I’m sure.
- David Zarrouk, Moshe Mann, Nir Degani, Tal Yehuda, Nissan Jarbi, and Amotz Hess, Single actuator wave-like robot (SAW): design, modeling, and experiments. Bioinspiration & Biomimetics, 11 (4):046004, 2016. http://stacks.iop.org/1748-3190/11/i=4/a=046004