Clothbot Has No Trouble Navigating Your Pants

Last year, we met CLASH, arguably the first purpose-built cloth climbing robot ever constructed. Clearly, just having one robot that can conquer clothing is not nearly enough, and a team of roboticists from the Chinese Academy of Sciences has decided that we need a little robot specifically designed to climb up wrinkles.

Unlike CLASH, which climbs with little spiny legs, Clothbot uses a gripping mechanism that can create a wrinkle in a piece of cloth with a pair of opposed gripper wheels and then drive straight up it. Clothbot only weighs about 140 grams, and it also includes an omni-directional tail that adjusts the bot’s center of gravity and helps it to change direction. The upside over a robot like CLASH is that Clothbot doesn’t leave little claw-holes all over your stuff, but instead just a slight fold that merely makes you appear unkempt.

So what exactly does Clothbot do when it gets to the top of your pants or your jacket or your shirt or whatever? We have no idea, but the authors mention that it could be used as “a tiny pet climbing on human bodies” or even “a movable phone on our shoulder which frees human hands.” One other intriguing possibility (and this is totally from the authors, not us) is “body inspection.” Body inspection. Yeah, uh, you’ll just have to use your imagination on that one.

System and Design of Clothbot: a Robot for Flexible Clothes Climbing, by Yuanyuan Liu, Xinyu Wu, Huihuan Qian, Duan Zheng, Jianquan Sun and Yangsheng Xu from the Chinese Academy of Sciences and the Chinese University of Hong Kong, was presented Tuesday at 2012 IEEE International Conference on Robotics and Automation, in St. Paul, Minn.

[ Chinese Academy of Science ]

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