Robot snakes may not be the most attractive robot design but they can do things that others can't and get places that we need them to go. If you can avoid the shudders while viewing this video so much the better...
One of the big problems of robotics is movement. Humanoid robots are all very well for climbing stairs and walking places that we can go but what about robots for places we can't go? There are all manner of small and skittery robots that can shoot off into what look like difficult places and jump over obstacles. But do we really need wheels or legs?
Snake locomotion has been studied for a long time and, if you can dispense with your prejudices and perhaps even primal fear, you should be able to see that its a very good way to get places of all types. A snake like robot could wiggle its way down a tube or a tunnel taking vital supplies to people trapped in otherwise difficult to get at locations. They can slither over obstacles and now it appears they can even climb things. Watch the video and then read some more about the research at Carnegie Mellon is all about.
At the moment it isn't so much a robot as a remote controlled device. It also doesn't have an independent power source - hence the unconvincing cable emerging from Sam's tail - but it is a step on the way to a full autonomous robot. Even as a remote controlled device you can already see that it has potential uses.
Finally, it provides an opportunity for a whole new genera of Sci Fi movies - Snakes on a Plane meets The Terminator perhaps?
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