Which would scare you more: snakes slithering into your house, or creepy robots [like these BLACK MIRROR monstrosities] stomping their way through your front door? Well, now you don’t have to choose anymore — thanks to a team of Harvard researchers, who managed to combine both terrors in one giant, slithering creation.
In a study published in Science Robotics and reported recently by The Verge, scientists have found that one of the most efficient methods of mechanical locomotion borrows its design from the skin of snakes.
The serpentine creeper shown in the clip below demonstrates this principle — made of soft silicone segments, the tube-shaped robot’s “skin” expands and contracts when air is pumped through it. Much like a snake’s scales, the edges of the skin’s segments pop up and down, gripping the ground and pulling the robot forward.
While some may be horrified at the prospect of robo-snakes crawling underneath their doors and into their beds at night, scientists are looking at the positive side — for example, the newly-published study explains how miniaturized versions of this design could perform internal medical procedures, or tunnel into tight spaces for rescue operations.
Snakes weren’t the only inspiration for this design, though; Harvard researcher Ahmad Rafsanjani laser-cut the rubbery skin segments following the intricate technique of Japanese paper-cutting known as kirigami.
According to The Verge, Rafsanjani and his team experimented for about a year and a half on the snakeskin bot, producing 50 different variations before finally perfecting the design, which he declared “a very happy moment.”
We’ll admit that’s a very good reason to be happy, especially if these robots are truly capable of saving lives someday… but that comforting thought just doesn’t quite sync up with the creepiness of seeing this thing on the move.