Robot that changes shape as it navigates

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San Francisco, July 21 (IANS) Expanding the scope of use of robotics in constrained environments, researchers have developed a robot that navigates its environment by extending its tip and controlling its growing direction based on what it senses externally.

The tubular robot, developed by researchers from University of California, Santa Barbara, and Stanford University, can be used for a variety of purposes like clearing arterial blockages and tunnelling through rubble for search and rescue operations.

The “soft” robots may adapt their actions to the presence of obstacles (including humans) or change shape to interact in a variety of spaces.

“…there is a big push right now to see if we can create robots that could actually live and help out in the human world,” said Elliot Hawkes, mechanical engineer from UC, Santa Barbara, in a paper published in journal Science Robotics.

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The design of this particular soft robot was inspired by nature, specifically by trailing vines and fungal hyphae and even by nerve cells, all of which grow from their tips.

The technology is still in its very early stages and the team is working to make the robot more robust and functional under an array of circumstances.



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