In robotics, one of the primary goals is to refine the way that otherwise inanimate objects can be animated to move more efficiently. If you read last week’s post about Skitterbot or the earlier post about DARPA’s robotic arm, you’ve learned that the trend in robot locomotion is always toward faster, more complex, and more biologically natural.
Carnegie Mellon University’s Robotics Lab aims to create machines that have a more versatile range of motion than their legged and wheeled counterparts – their family of modular snake robots can move in a straight line, sure… they can also climb poles, swim, and sidewind, just to name a few.
The idea behind the robotic slitherers is simple: by adding more degrees of freedom internally, the types of motion (or gaits, as the university calls them) is increased, allowing the Snakebot to squirm through tight areas, wrap around and climb poles, traverse pipes, and scale gaps between buildings.
The applications for Snakebots are widespread, but some hope to see them in areas like medicine and urban search and rescue. Smaller versions of the modular snakes can wind into small areas during surgery, and larger bots can assist in tasks like searching through rubble of a collapsed building. The benefit of using something that can move in so many ways is that one machine can be used for a ton of different applications, given a few minor adjustments in programming.
You can watch videos and see pictures of the modular snake robotic family on Carnegie Mellon’s Web site. If you want to skip straight to the action, just watch the video below.