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...
robatnorcross, I had a similar thought, although I'm not afraid of snakes--unless they're venomous, that is. This one's "skin" pattern is camouflage, but it looks a lot like some venomous western rattlers I've seen. Even without fear of snakes, this would still give one pause if you were trapped and couldn't move.
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, that’s 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.
Well, we have come a long way from the Slinky, haven't we? Impressive display of technology, Ann. This design form factor really seems to be working for robotics development at the moment. As we can see from the slideshow, it's quite versatile, which is probably why it's so appealing (if not a bit creepy and crawly as well!). :)
Yes, we've come a long way since the Slinky which was invented in 1940. Back then microprocessors, let alone mainframe computers, did not exist. A simple material, sand, manipulated in complex ways has made it possible to provide the intelligence and electrical control required to drive the imaginative tools of the 21st century.
I was in awe of the electronic tablets depicted in Stanley Kubrick's film "2001 A Space Odyssey." Back in the last century that hardware seemed so futuristic. Who would have imagined the iPad with far greater capabilities becoming a must have personal eReader, camera, and mobile computer a short time past 2001?
Exactly! That was my first thought, too! I guess that dates us, doesn't it? But it is interesting to see how the movement of that simple toy was a precursor for what's being done in robotics...and that toy moved simply on design alone without actuators. I guess you never know where inspiration will come from or how these things evolve.
Everything dates everyone, doesn't it? But I'm with you--I can imagine an engineer looking at Slinky's movements and wondering how to motorize and automate them. First there's a design that uses a helical shape, gravity, and momentum, and then the big jump to motors.
Deploy a robot which looks like a snale and moves like a snake, someone might think it IS a snake and set out to destroy it. In the real world, a fair number of these robots are going to get their heads shot off. In a military application they could also be used to freak out the enemy, of course.
Battar, I'm not afraid of snakes (but don't even ask me about tarantulas), although many people are. That's a good point about military applications, though, and could apply to search-and-rescue ops, also. Fortunately most of these don't actually look much like real snakes, with the exception of MIT's Meshworm.
sensor pro, thanks for that link. That snake robot, and its uses, look quite similar to some of the search-and-rescue snake/worm/bots in this slideshow. But--I wonder if that's a cammo skin pattern, or a natural snake skin pattern? I can't tell from the low-res photo.
My kid (thus I) had snakes as 'pets', but it never occurred to me that one might some day get the paper for me!
That said, a 'fear' of snakes is pretty strong and innate in the general population, and I admit to a few internal shudders when looking at these photos.
Real snake locomotion is trully wondrous. I've seen them go right up the trunk of a tree, literally 'look ma, no hands!'. Amazing. I truly admire anyone attempting to mimic it mechanically, they have their work cut out for them.
Ken, interesting point about fear of snakes. Actually, only some people fear them. I'm not one of them. But spiders absolutely creep me out, and not everyone has that fear either. Some people think it's like a gene allele: you either fear one or the other, but not both.
Snakes are just cool. Of course, since I live in North America I don't really have any to be especially afraid of. There are only a few venomous snakes, and it's unlikely that a bite would be fatal in any case. If I lived in Australia, where Every Other Stinking Thing You Meet wants to kill you -- and can -- it would be different. The Common Brown snake (so called because it is dirt colored and very common) is the fifth most lethal snake on the planet. I don't even want to VISIT.
Spiders, by and large, are fun. I think the orb weavers and garden spiders are gorgeous. They have such interesting patterns, and they make great inroads on the flying-pest population. Wolf spiders are great to have around outside. And the little jewel-like jumping spiders are fun to play with. They tickle the hairs on the backs of my fingers. Black Widows and I have an understanding: we leave each other alone. I actually encourage them to nest under the house, since they are swift death to roaches and I prefer biological warfare over bug bombs. If they get in the house, I just move 'em back to the crawlspace.
Those brown, spindly spiders, though? They die. Period. They are toxic to humans and basically have no redeeming features, prefering to hide where you are going to put your hands or feet, and bite with little provocation.
Researchers have been developing a number of nano- and micro-scale technologies that can be used for implantable medical technology for the treatment of disease, diagnostics, prevention, and other health-related applications.
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