The December 2022 issue of IEEE Spectrum is here!

Close bar

Speedy Inchworm Robot Only Needs One Motor

This robotic worm is destined to be crawling around inside your body

1 min read
Speedy Inchworm Robot Only Needs One Motor

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!

[ Paper ] via [ Technion ]

The Conversation (0)

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
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

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?

Keep Reading ↓Show less