Like a vine. It’s ability to grow across distances without moving its whole body could be useful in search and rescue and medical applications. Inspired by natural organisms that cover distance by growing, such as vines, fungi and nerve cells, mechanical engineers at Stanford University have created a new type of robot as a proof of concept.
image/text credit: Stanford
The robot, which has been through some challenging tests, can grow across long distances without moving its whole body. They place the device at the entrance of the debris and flip a switch. From one end of the cylinder, a tendril extends into the mass of stones and dirt, like a fast-climbing vine.
image credit: Stanford
A camera at the tip of the tendril gives rescuers a view of the otherwise unreachable places beneath the rubble.To investigate what their robot can do, the group created prototypes that move through various obstacles, travel toward a designated goal, and grow into a free-standing structure.
This robot could serve a wide range of purposes, particularly in the realms of search and rescue and medical devices, the researchers said.What makes this robot design extremely useful is that the design results in movement of the tip without movement of the body.
The group tested the benefits of this method for getting the robot from one place to another in several ways.In the future, the researchers would like to create versions that may also grow using liquid, which could help deliver water to people trapped in tight spaces or to put out fires in closed rooms, and possibly with new, tougher materials.