Want to know what this thing is? Here's a hint: it's a miniature inchworm. And it's quite possibly the fastest miniature inchworm robotin the world, even though it uses just one single motor.
The "Mission: Impossible" music might be a bit much here, but the mechanical design is pretty clever: moving segments equipped with clamps alternately retract and extend, propelling the inchworm robot forward. All it takes a single motor to spin the thing, and since it's so simple, you can crank it up to 5 cm/s, which is seriously quick for a robot like this. But perhaps the biggest advantage is efficiency: with a small on-board battery, these kinds of robots can climb vertically for hundreds of meters.
The robots were developed at the Medical Robots Lab at the Technion Israel Institute of Technology, by David Zarrouk, Oshri Ifergan, Yossi Baruch and Moshe Shoham. Look for roboworms to eventually show up in applications including maintenance of small pipes and medical procedures in biological vessels. So yeah, we're talking about these little things crawling around inside your intestines, blood vessels, and (I'm quoting from the abstract here) "urethra." Sweet dreams!
Evan Ackerman is a senior editor at IEEE Spectrum. Since 2007, he has written over 6,000 articles on robotics and technology. He has a degree in Martian geology and is excellent at playing bagpipes.