Although it seems like robots modeled after snakes and worms could be used for a wide variety of applications, the majority are designed for only two uses.
Many are created as rescue robots -- for detecting danger or victims or for taking supplies to survivors. Their shape, size, and locomotion style give them access to places people can't or shouldn't go, such as collapsed buildings and nuclear reactors that are damaged or being decommissioned.
The other main use for snake and worm robots is in medical applications. Skinny, snaky tubes are just right for inserting into blood vessels or abdominal cavities to assist in minimally invasive surgery. Or they can go exploring to locate problems such as tumors and send back data about size and location.
Click the image below to see 10 examples of these writhing robots.
The Slim Slime Robot from the Tokyo Institute of Technology's Hirose Fukushima Lab is a pneumatically driven active cord mechanism. It is used to inspect pipes in chemical laboratories or nuclear plants, detect unexploded mines, and help first responders find victims in collapsed buildings. A series of six connected modules are driven by pneumatic actuators. Compressed air is forced from the main tube of each module into that module's bellows, or flexible pneumatic actuators, which are located along the main tube's length. The Slim Slime can creep like a snake, make pivoting turns, roll laterally, and move with a pedal-like motion that emulates snails and limpets. Its total length is 730-1,120mm (28.7-44 inches). It weighs 12kg (26.4 pounds), and its top speed is about 60mm (2.36 inches) per second. (Source: Hirose Fukushima Lab)
That was a fascinating slideshow - I really like the idea of using robotic snakes for dangerous or hard to reach applications. I will need to show hubby Roboboa (slide 10). He is thinking about using a PIC microcontroller and designing a rattlesnake for one of our portable trail obstacles for horses, that rattles and moves when a horse approaches - Roboboa looks like a lot of fun with some cool possibilities. I would just make sure and introduce my horse to him from the ground first!
Sadly, Roboboa is listed as "retired" on the manufacturer's website. I can't imagine why--it looks like a great, fun toy. And yes, I'd think your horses would *not* appreciate meeting one, even after an introduction.
I agree Ann - but if ever a horse had a sense of humor and the patience of a saint - fortunately my current gelding Pistol does, LOL. Too bad Roboboa is retired - it looks like he could serve to stir the imagination of youngsters towards robotics...
Chuck, the Slim Slime description didn't specifically mention it as being developed for Fukushima. That name happens to be the last name of one of the robotic lab's two directors. The other's last name is Hirose.
Ann, thatís for sharing this interesting article. So far robots have the role for assisting in investigation and diagnosis outside the human body. With this snake type, they are penetrating to human body even in blood vessels. Hope this will bring a mass changes in medical care technology.