Artificial Snakeskin Helps Robots Get Their Slither On
Snakes have got to be some of the most creatively mobile animals ever evolved. They can move fast. They can move stealthily. They’re good climbers. They’re good swimmers. They can squeeze into very small holes. Some of them can even fly, a little bit. And all of this despite looking like a lizard that’s missing 100 percent of the limbs that it’s supposed to have.
Roboticists have been working on snake robots for a long time, primarily with a focus on versatile mobility in constrained spaces. With that in mind, we’ve seen a variety of limbless robots that can mimic snake “gaits” fairly well. But it’s not just the lack of limbs that makes snakes so special—it’s also their scales. In a new article in Science Robotics this week, researchers from Harvard show how mimicking snake scales with kirigami-inspired deformable materials enabled them to make a limbless soft robot that can crawl by simply inflating and deflating itself over and over.