Thursday, March 29, 2007

Amoebalike Robots for Search and Rescue

Roboticists at Virginia Tech, in Blacksburg, have developed a novel form of locomotion for robotics based on the way the single-celled amoeba moves. Unlike any other robots, the Virginia Tech ones are designed to use their entire outer skin as a means of propulsion.

This novel type of locomotion is particularly suited to search-and-rescue applications, says Hong: "They can squeeze under a collapsed ceiling or between obstacles very easily." Indeed, preliminary experiments show that the robots, with their soft, contracting bodies, are able to push themselves through holes with diameters much smaller than their normal width, Hong says. And because the robots are able to use their entire contact surfaces for traction, they can move over and through very uneven environments with ease.
The actual motion is generated by contracting and expanding actuator rings along the length of the robot's body. By contracting the rings at the rear of the robot and expanding them toward.

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