Omnidirectional Robot Moves Like a Galloping Snail

This robot may not look much like a snail, but it does the "snail-wave" just like one

1 min read
Omnidirectional Robot Moves Like a Galloping Snail

A snail might not necessarily be your first choice when it comes to mobile robot design, but our gastropodal friends have a few tricks up their non-sleeves when it comes to moving themselves around. Most snails rely on two techniques to move: undulating, which uses fluidic mucus pressure, and galloping, which is apparently when "like an inchworm, the animal sticks the front of its foot to a surface (thanks to suction and friction from the mucus), and then draws the rest of its body up behind it.”

This galloping technique has been adapted (and expanded) for robots by the Biomechatronics Lab at Chuo University in Japan. Their "Snail-Wave Omnidirectional Mobile Robot," Toro II, may not look a whole lot like a snail (and it's completely mucus free), but check out its moves:

The advantage of this robot with its sexy wave action is stable omnidirectionality: no matter what direction it's moving in (and even if it's not moving and/or completely powered off), the robot boasts a large and grippy area that's always in contact with the ground. You can compare this to other omnidirectional robots, such as the slug bots, squishy creatures that transform from soft to hard, or the Mecanum wheel system, which offers varying resistance depending on what direction it's moving and requires active braking if it needs to stay in one place. The snail robot, by contrast, is much more resilient to things like unintended shoves, and its designers suggest that this inherent stability and freedom of movement might make robots like these ideal for hospitals and factories.

[ Nakamura Lab ]

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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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