Snakebot Worms Its Way Into Your Heart, Literally

CardioARM, a snake robot from CMU, is designed to navigate around your heart, since what we all definitely need are more robot snakes in our chests

1 min read
Snakebot Worms Its Way Into Your Heart, Literally

Next time you need heart surgery, this little snakebot is going to make himself right at home deep inside your chest via a small hole in your solar plexus. It's CardioARM, and don't panic, he's here to help. Developed by CMU's Howie Choset, CardioARM has 102 joints (plus a camera for a head) and can be directed to slither around your vital organs with the utmost precision, making it unnecessary to 'crack open your chest,' which is apparently what they normally do when your ticker needs an overhaul.

Last February, CardioARM was successfully tested on a human for the first time, performing a diagnostic heart mapping procedure, which sounds like it was probably a pile o' fun for everyone involved. Dr. Choset has bigger plans for his snakebots, though:

"He hopes to test the device in other surgeries, such as ablation—which involves burning away a small amount of heart muscle to correct an abnormal beat."

Burning? Burning, you say? What, with lasers? We're giving these flesh-burrowing robot snakes lasers now? What else?!

“We’re hoping to use a remote-controlled robot to go through small caves in Egypt,” [Choset] says, “and find remains of ancient Egyptian tombs.”

Snakebots. Lasers. Ancient Egyptian tombs. Wow, I smell a blockbuster...

[ CardioARM ] VIA [ Discover ]

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How the U.S. Army Is Turning Robots Into Team Players

Engineers battle the limits of deep learning for battlefield bots

11 min read
Robot with threads near a fallen branch

RoMan, the Army Research Laboratory's robotic manipulator, considers the best way to grasp and move a tree branch at the Adelphi Laboratory Center, in Maryland.

Evan Ackerman

This article is part of our special report on AI, “The Great AI Reckoning.

"I should probably not be standing this close," I think to myself, as the robot slowly approaches a large tree branch on the floor in front of me. It's not the size of the branch that makes me nervous—it's that the robot is operating autonomously, and that while I know what it's supposed to do, I'm not entirely sure what it will do. If everything works the way the roboticists at the U.S. Army Research Laboratory (ARL) in Adelphi, Md., expect, the robot will identify the branch, grasp it, and drag it out of the way. These folks know what they're doing, but I've spent enough time around robots that I take a small step backwards anyway.

The robot, named RoMan, for Robotic Manipulator, is about the size of a large lawn mower, with a tracked base that helps it handle most kinds of terrain. At the front, it has a squat torso equipped with cameras and depth sensors, as well as a pair of arms that were harvested from a prototype disaster-response robot originally developed at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory for a DARPA robotics competition. RoMan's job today is roadway clearing, a multistep task that ARL wants the robot to complete as autonomously as possible. Instead of instructing the robot to grasp specific objects in specific ways and move them to specific places, the operators tell RoMan to "go clear a path." It's then up to the robot to make all the decisions necessary to achieve that objective.

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