As if things weren’t scary enough, now scientists have come up with a way to program a snake robot to mimic the movements of the infamous sidewinder.
At first the scientists wanted to know how sidewinders moved and especially how they moved over sand. It’s not an easy task for a snake and of the 13 different species of snakes they tried only one actually made it up a man made sandy incline the scientists rigged up. At first the put a real sidewinder on the incline and watched carefully via high speed camera recording how the animal made it up the slope.
To their surprise the findings showed the creature had a unique way of lifting one section of its body vertically and the other horizontally. With that data in hand they then went to work on developing the robot snake to do the same with much success. Getting a robot to be able to maneuver and locate on such difficult terrain allows for applications for search and rescue operations.
Scientists Hamid Marvi of Carnegie Mellon, Howie Choset of Carnegie Mellon, observed the deadly sidewinder rattlesnakes from Arizona. They took the data from their observations and programmed their robot thus to imitate the motions of the sidewinder. The snakebot then traversed the terrain but couldn’t scale the incline the scientists set up. Then when it was programmed with the data gleaned from the sidewinder video the snakebot was able to climb the incline up to a 20 degree slope.
The snakebot is an assembly of 17 aluminum links with an additional 16 joints that measure around 37 inches long and 2 inches in diameter. It also sports a sophisticated computer with sensors and electronics and motor.
This project lends itself to more research using other living creatures that can move where robots at present can’t. Even under water. These robots could become an invaluable tool in research not to mention toys to frighten mom.