Scientists have developed a new robot that moves in ways that are similar to a snake’s natural undulations and it can be reconfigured to suit user needs.
The robot developed by Carnegie Mellon University is called Snake Monster, however, with six legs, it looks more like an insect than a snake.
The whole point of the project is to make modular robots that can easily be reconfigured to meet a user’s needs, said the robot’s inventor, Howie Choset.
Choset, a professor in CMU’s Robotics Institute, said the walking robot, developed in just six months, is only one example of the robots that eventually can be built using this modular system.
“By creating a system that can be readily reconfigured and that also is easy to programme, we believe we can build robots that are not only robust and flexible, but also inexpensive,” Choset said.
For years, Choset’s lab has concentrated on building and operating snake-like robots – chains of repeated component joints.
By careful coordination of these joints, the robots can be made to move in ways that are similar to a snake’s natural undulations and in other ways not seen in nature, such as rolling.
Applications for these robots include urban search and rescue, archaeological exploration and inspection of power plants, refineries and sewers.
The six legs have a reach of 12 inches, and are connected to a rectangular body, with the whole robot weighing 8 kg.
The robot moves with an alternating tripod gait, with three legs in the air at all times – two on one side and one on the other.
Choset’s team used the hardware expertise developed in snake robots to build small, powerful modules and used the lessons learned in controlling the snake-bots to create a system architecture that can be easily programmed to control robots with a wide variety of configurations.
“The architecture is built on Ethernet computer networking technology,” Choset said.
“Ethernet doesn’t require that the computers connected to it be of a specific type, but that they all communicate with each other in the same way,” Choset added.
The interfaces used in the modular architecture allow robot designers to focus on specific capabilities without having to worry about detailed systems issues or having to modify the robot later, he said.