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)
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.
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.
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?