American researchers have developed an artificial skin made of scales. What’s more, a rather special robot has been created that can move like a snake.
More and more, we see creations inspired by nature appearing in the field of robotics: this is what is called biomimicry. Every living thing can potentially be imitated, meaning that animals have pride of place in the domain of robotics.
There are already several animal inspired robots in existence. For example cricket robots, cockroach robots, robots inspired by rays and rats, bee robots (RoboBee) and very recently, a robot that moves like a snake! This was conceived by Harvard researchers, and was introduced in a publication in Science Robotics on the 21st February 2018.
The video at the end of the article shows this famous robot moving as if it was an actual snake! The machine works by inhaling and exhaling air via an internal pump.
The robot is covered by an artificial skin with scales inspired by kirigami, the art of paper cutting in Japan. However, the skin in question is not made from paper but from silicone, and the scales have been cut into it by laser. The scales make the robot appear flexible. The skin has three types of scales with different shapes: triangular, circular and trapezoid. According to their shape, the scales have varying adhesion properties.
This robot is only a “proof of concept” according to the researchers, who foresee applications in the field of medicine, in terms of administering medication into the arteries via scaled down models, or even in first aid or emergency care for difficult to reach areas in the case of accidents or disasters.