A team of researchers from the Worcester Polytechnic Institute – WPI (Massachusetts) received a grant of $ 400,000 from the US National Science Foundation for the creation of a snake-like robot capable of moving among blockages and confined spaces in the aftermath of natural disasters.
Within the framework of this project, WPI scientists create soft robots made of silicone rubber. They consist of interconnected modules, each of which has its own pipes, valves, pneumatic actuators, integrated sensors and control units.
Each segment of a soft robot is capable of producing its own movements. In general, the movement of timidity is a successive combination of individual movements of each module.
Soft robots are a significant step forward in comparison with their tough counterparts, which can damage objects (or themselves) in an accidental collision. Soft robots are completely rid of this, because they do not have discrete joints. They continuously bend, which makes them more maneuverable – especially at steep turns and in close obstructions.
Recently, WPI scientists created a prototype of a soft snake-like robot, which they optionally equipped with deformation sensors. They allow the robot to accurately control the shape and position of its body – for example, by bending debris while moving, or in a supine position. Once the robot is aware of the configuration of its body, it begins to better control its movements.