Harvard team creates robot that can crawl under surfaces

A group of crafty Harvard scientists have created a soft, flexible new type of robot that can crawl across surfaces and squeeze its way under obstacles.

Built by a team led by chemist George Whitesides of Harvard University, the robot draws inspiration from sea creatures such as starfish and squid. Rather than relying on motors, treads and wheels to move about, its motion is driven by compressed air pumped into the robot’s limbs through valves and tubes.

“Instead of basing this and other designs on highly evolved animals as models, we are using simpler organisms for inspiration,” researchers wrote in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. “These organisms, ones without internal skeletons, suggest designs that are simpler to make and are less expensive than conventional hard robots, and that may, in some respects, be more capable of complex motions and functions.”

There are a few drawbacks, however. For starters, the robot is only capable of reaching speeds of around 13 meters per hour. Secondly, the robot requires being tethered to an external power source. Once they figure out how to integrate the power source into the robot, however, researchers figure similar technology could be deployed in the real world.

Check out a video of the wiggly robot below.

Source: PNAS