Rubber robot that crawls and slithers is more flexible than other machines


This undated photo provided by Harvard University/Robert Shepherd shows a soft-bodied robot navigating, top to bottom, an obstacle course. Harvard researchers have built this flexible prototype robot that can crawl and move in a wavelike motion. Unlike rigid robots, soft robots can be used to squeeze into tight spaces. (AP Photo/Harvard University, Robert Shepherd) (Robert Shepherd/AP)

When you think about a robot, you probably see a stiff creation. Think again. Harvard University scientists have built a new robot that might remind you of Gumby.

Scientists are increasingly looking to nature when creating robots. The Harvard team borrowed from squids, starfish and other animals without hard skeletons to create a small, four-legged rubber robot. Flexible robots could squeeze through hard-to-reach cracks after an earthquake or cross rough terrain on the battlefield.

The Harvard robot, which took two months to build, is five inches long. Its four legs can be separately controlled by pumping air into the limbs. This gives the robot a variety of motions that include crawling and slithering.

The researchers tested the robot’s flexibility by having it squirm underneath a pane of glass placed just three-quarters of an inch off the surface.

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