Creepy Crawly Slug Robot Has Tank Treads for Skin

A wraparound, flexible treaded skin keeps this "slug crawler" robot protected from dust, dirt, water, and actual slugs

1 min read
Creepy Crawly Slug Robot Has Tank Treads for Skin

Rescue robots don't always have to be big and burly and complicated. Usually, if you put something big and burly and complicated in an environment with lots of water and dust, all the big and burly complicated bits get decidedly less complicated by virtue of ceasing to function. You can seal up individual parts (like wheels or tracks) as best you can, but sealing up the entire robot offers even more durability. The SCV (Slug Crawler Vehicle) from the Chiba Institute of Technology in Japan relies on a flexible, waterproof "skin" to protect it from the elements while still allowing it to get around pretty well:

Here's what the Slug Crawler has going on inside:

You can sort of think of the robot like a little tank, except it's just one big flexible tread that wraps around the entire body. Steering is accomplished with two internal pulley systems that can swivel from side to side (it's the silver one in the pic above). Together, they pull the tread into an arc shape to change the direction of movement. It's robust, reliable, and completely protected against dirt and water, making it a (potentially) very effective search and rescue robot. To figure out how well it actually does work, the next generation of Slug Crawler will be bigger, more powerful, have better cameras, and users will be able to teleoperate it from a nice safe distance.

"Development of the high strength retractable skin and the closed type crawler vehicle" by Takeshi Aoki, Takahiro Karino, and Hiroyki Kuwahara of the Chiba Institute of Technology in Japan, was presented at the IEEE International Conference on Intelligent Robots and Systems in San Francisco in September.

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The Bionic-Hand Arms Race

The prosthetics industry is too focused on high-tech limbs that are complicated, costly, and often impractical

12 min read
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A photograph of a young woman with brown eyes and neck length hair dyed rose gold sits at a white table. In one hand she holds a carbon fiber robotic arm and hand. Her other arm ends near her elbow. Her short sleeve shirt has a pattern on it of illustrated hands.

The author, Britt Young, holding her Ottobock bebionic bionic arm.

Gabriela Hasbun. Makeup: Maria Nguyen for MAC cosmetics; Hair: Joan Laqui for Living Proof
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In Jules Verne’s 1865 novel From the Earth to the Moon, members of the fictitious Baltimore Gun Club, all disabled Civil War veterans, restlessly search for a new enemy to conquer. They had spent the war innovating new, deadlier weaponry. By the war’s end, with “not quite one arm between four persons, and exactly two legs between six,” these self-taught amputee-weaponsmiths decide to repurpose their skills toward a new projectile: a rocket ship.

The story of the Baltimore Gun Club propelling themselves to the moon is about the extraordinary masculine power of the veteran, who doesn’t simply “overcome” his disability; he derives power and ambition from it. Their “crutches, wooden legs, artificial arms, steel hooks, caoutchouc [rubber] jaws, silver craniums [and] platinum noses” don’t play leading roles in their personalities—they are merely tools on their bodies. These piecemeal men are unlikely crusaders of invention with an even more unlikely mission. And yet who better to design the next great leap in technology than men remade by technology themselves?

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