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)
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!). :)
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.
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?
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.
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