Sidewinding Snakebots Sinuously Summit Steep Sandy Slopes
As a snake owner, I can personally attest to the fact that lack of limbs is no impediment to mobility. In fact, snakes are masters of moving over all kinds of terrain where wheeled or legged robots usually fail. They’re also excellent swimmers, and they can even jump and glide. Part of what makes snakes so adaptable is how they can choose from a variety of gaits depending on what they’re trying to do or where they’re trying to go. Robot snakes can do this too, and in some ways, they can do it even better, because they can execute behaviors that real snakes don’t know how to do, like rolling longitudinally to climb up poles (or legs).
We don’t mean to say that robot snakes would have real snakes trounced. Far from it: we have a lot to learn about how, and why, snakes move the way they do. In the latest issue of Science, researchers from Georgia Tech, roboticists from Carnegie Mellon, and herpetologists from Zoo Atlanta describe how sidewinders climb up steep sandy slopes, and show how snake robots can learn from their technique.