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Taking inspirations from the snake’s locomotion, the US-based researchers have developed a segmented robot snake called ‘snakebot’, in an attempt to make a versatile mechanical beast that can help in carrying tough operations.
The snakebot is developed with a series of 17 aluminum links with 16 joints that measures about 37 inches (94 cm) in length and 2 inches (5 cm) in diameter. The snake robot also contains a motor, computer, sensors and electronics.
The researchers on Thursday said that they had conducted a series of experiments to better understand how sidewinder rattlesnakes climb sandy hills. After precisely learning the procedure, the researchers then applied the repertoire of the reptiles to an existing snake robot in order to see it reciprocating in the similar manner.
“Our initial idea was to use the robot as a physical model to learn what the snakes experienced, by studying the animal and the physical model simultaneously. We learned important general principles that allowed us to not only understand the animal, but also to improve the robot,” Howie Choset, a Robotics Professor at the Carnegie Mellon University, said in a press release.
The study provides a good example of how the world scientists are making biological applications in better understanding and improving technology.
According to the researchers, the snake-like robots can serve as a better alternative to the usual wheeled robots by offering unique capabilities in carrying complicated tasks like inspecting nuclear power plants or conducting search or rescue operations in dangerous and highly risky regions.
“The snake robot can thread through tightly packed space to access locations that people and conventional machinery cannot,” Choset said.
Explaining the unique abilities of the snakes, Carnegie Mellon robotics researcher and study author from Georgia Tech, Hamid Marvi, said, “Snakes are the champion animal for moving on a wide range of complex terrain. They have different gaits and can switch between them as needed. They have a special gait, sidewinding, for successfully climbing on sandy hills.”
For the study, the scientists analysed and keenly observed the movement of the venomous sidewinder rattlesnake species Crotalus cerastes which is commonly found in the southwestern US, while it was crawling in a large enclosure at Zoo Atlanta that is filled with sand from the Arizona desert.
The researchers applied their observations to their snake robot developed at Carnegie Mellon.
The study’s findings have been published in the journal Science.