Whenever we think about robots, many of us are surely to have a brief reverie of glimmering metallic automatons shuffling around in their measured movements and doing humanity's bidding. Well, conceptions like Honda's ASIMO certainly do allude to this fascinating future, but the vast nature of robotics in itself is not just limited to the 'humanoid' scope. As a matter of fact, there has been a spurt of recent robotic designs that conform to the flexible side of affairs. In relation to this, scientists from Harvard have successfully contrived an elastic amoeba-like robot that can twitch and waggle through smaller spatial scales.
While Hollywood may make us believe otherwise, this time the researchers led by chemist George M. Whitesides have taken inspiration of the robot's shape from a plethora of biological forms (other than humans) like squids, starfish and ductile animals without the solid framework of skeletons. Now, many of us may be a tad bit baffled by the innocent demeanor of the robot, but it is even more bamboozling that the novel project was funded by the Pentagon - an epitome of American military influence.
Though we do not yet know its name, the conception was built over a period of two months. Almost 12.7 cm in length, the squiggly form has a total of four distinctly appearing limbs. These 'legs' can be given their volumetric shape by pumping in air both manually and automatically through a computer process. The air filled mechanism in itself imparts a high level of fluidity to the movement attributes of the robot, thus allowing it a range of motions like slithering and crawling. For example, in the testing phase, the flexible conception managed to squirm through underneath a glass pane which was just three-quarters of an inch from the surface.
In the same procedure, the scientist took the test for fifteen times, and each time the robot achieved its spatially limited traversing path in less than one minute. This somewhat proved the convenient hardiness of the robot's structural as well as motional attribute, despite its seemingly soft features. As a matter of fact, according to one of the researchers, the contraption can move over a myriad of odd surfaces including felt cloth, gravel, mud and even Jell-O. But that does not necessarily mean that there is no further scope for development. In relation to this, one of the severe disadvantages (of course, on which the scientists are working on) of the robot is that it has to be connected to an external power source, thus tremendously reducing its essence of mobility.
Now, coming back to the scope of flexible robots, they seem to counter a lot of predicaments that more conventionally rigid robots face. For example, they can traverse more dense and scarce areas (with deficient volumetric space) with their intrinsic nature of deformation. This practical attribute can certainly help in spying from a subtle yet nigh inaccessible vantage point during military sting operations. In a more conscientious tone, such robots can also be used in emergency situations like trying to reach out to victims trapped under building rubble during earthquakes and landslides.