Snake Bots to the Rescue

There have been many nature-inspired gadgets and devices. This method is called biomimicry or biomimemtics.

Published: 20th October 2014 06:00 AM  |   Last Updated: 19th October 2014 12:34 PM   |  A+A-

There have been many nature-inspired gadgets and devices. This method is called biomimicry or biomimemtics. You have products like shark skin which inspired swim suits and submarine coatings; Velcro, the hook and loop fastener that was inspired by plant burrs that stick to dog hair and a new adhesive inspired by Geckos. Now, snakes have inspired the creation of a robot that will mimic its actions and can move through tiny holes.

It is said that the snake robot has been in use since 2008, but these were early prototypes, since which many alterations have been made in different models. The most famous is Carnegie Mellon University’s (CMU) research and snake bot models. Their many snake robots include Uncle Sam, Frostbite, Molly, Spooky Snake and Pepperoni. Modifying each version, they concentrate on changing snake gaits. According to their website, cyclic inputs on the joint angles of the snake robot whose internal motions provide a net displacement in a desired direction is gait. “We have developed several gaits based on  a small set of parameters. Although we make no claim to the full generality of our gait model, we have been able to mimic all biological gaits and develop those that go beyond biological capability,” say researchers on the website.

Georgia Tech University students have also developed search and rescue snake robots in 2012. Says a report on the college website, www.news.gatech.edu, while studying and videotaping the movements of 20 different species at Zoo Atlanta, Hamid Marvi developed Scalybot 2, a robot that replicates the rectilinear locomotion of snakes. Marvi was a PhD candidate at the time and his Scalybot could adjust its angles when travelling on different terrain and slopes. The Scalybot was not in the shape of the snake, but just used the movements of a snake. The robot is controlled by a remote-control joystick.

Recently researchers from Carnegie Mellon and Georgia Tech headed to Zoo Atlanta, to observe rattlesnakes. After over 50 trials, these snake movements were measured and tracked through cameras. “The snakes tended to increase the amount of body contact with the surface at any instant in time when they were sidewinding up the slope and the incline angle increased,” said Daniel Goldman, co-author of the study and an associate professor of biomechanics at the Georgia Institute of Technology in Atlanta (www.livescience.com).

These researchers also got in touch with Howie Choset, a professor at The Robotics Institute at CMU. Prof Howie has been working on developing limbless snake bots that can move through small spaces. The professor said these robotic sidewinding abilities could come in handy in archaeological sites. For instance, the robots could be used to explore the insides of pyramids or tombs. They could also help in search and rescue missions, as they are capable of moving in small and cramped spaces.

You can watch the videos on how these snake robots move at www.biorobotics.ri.cmu.edu/projects/modsnake/media.html.

kaviya@newindianexpress.com

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