Robots come in all shapes and sizes. But what about a squirmy, four-legged bot that writhes and wriggles like a headless Gumby? Yep, that exists, thanks to Harvard scientists who created a soft-bodied machine that can wiggle and worm through tight spaces. (Watch a video below.) Here's how they did it:
What is it exactly?
The new 5-inch, "Gumby-like" bot is part of a "growing field of soft-bodied robots," says Alicia Chang for the Associated Press. This particular "bendable and versatile" creation was modeled after squids, starfish, and other sea dwellers that lack skeletons.
How does it move?
The robot's designers took a "remarkably low-tech approach," says John Timmer at Ars Technica. The robot is built from a "tough elastomer" that makes this machine durable and malleable. A system of pressurized air inside the robot allows each of its four limbs to move individually. The air is pumped into the robot through a set of flexible tubes attached to the mechanical wriggler, but there's "no reason" scientists couldn't cut the cords and attach a small pump instead.
What good is this robot?
The project is funded by the Pentagon's research arm, and the hope is that later versions of this robot could be used for search-and-rescue operations. A device that's able to slither through tiny crevices could, for instance, track down survivors after earthquakes and battles.
Check it out:
THE WEEK'S AUDIOPHILE PODCASTS: LISTEN SMARTER
- How U.S. special forces are preparing for the worst-case scenario in North Korea
- Here's the schedule very successful people follow every day
- I hate Ayn Rand — but here's why my fellow conservatives love her
- The best online movies to watch this weekend
- The 11 worst fast food restaurants in America
- What would a U.S.-Russia war look like?
- The danger of the Democrats' lack of desperation
- The secret to Gabrielle Hamilton's amazing grilled cheese sandwiches
- The biggest lesson Obama failed to learn from Bush
- Hey, Paul Ryan's new poverty plan isn't completely terrible!
Subscribe to the Week