Tue. Nov 28th, 2023
    CU Boulder Engineers Develop Shapeshifting Robot Spider for Post-Disaster Missions

    A team of engineers at the University of Colorado Boulder has made a significant breakthrough in the field of robotics. They have successfully designed a small robot spider, named mCLARI (mini compliant legged articulated robot insect), capable of passive shapeshifting. This unique ability allows the robot to navigate narrow spaces and challenging terrains, making it a potential asset for post-disaster recovery missions, space explorations, and certain medical procedures.

    Unlike its predecessor, CLARI, which resembled a beetle, mCLARI looks more like a spider with its thin black ring body, four legs, and piezoelectric actuators. These actuators convert supplied electricity into mechanical displacement, enabling the spider-inspired robot to move in any desired direction with the help of its folded origami legs. Despite its miniature size of 20 millimeters, mCLARI weighs only 0.97 grams and can achieve a remarkable speed of 60 millimeters per second.

    The shapeshifting ability of mCLARI is attributed to its lack of bulk. As the robot moves through narrow spaces, its flexible body bends inward, giving it an oblong appearance from above. Once it emerges, its shape returns to the original form. The CU Boulder team believes that mCLARI’s versatility and agility can be instrumental in search and rescue operations, where it could traverse piles of rubble to locate survivors. Although the current version lacks cameras and sensors for this purpose, the researchers have been awarded the “best paper” distinction in the field of safety, security, and rescue robotics at the International Conference on Intelligent Robots and Systems.

    This groundbreaking development opens up new possibilities for robotic systems and their applications in various real-world scenarios. As technology continues to advance, engineers are making significant strides in creating robots that can mimic and adapt to natural movements and environments. The potential for these shapeshifting robots to aid in critical missions is immense, and the work done by the CU Boulder team is a testament to the progress being made in the field.

    Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ)

    1. How does mCLARI achieve passive shapeshifting?

    mCLARI achieves passive shapeshifting through its lack of bulk, which allows its flexible body to bend inward as it moves through narrow spaces. This bending makes the robot appear oblong from above but returns to its original shape when it emerges.

    2. What is the purpose of developing a shapeshifting robot spider?

    The purpose of developing a shapeshifting robot spider like mCLARI is to enhance its mobility and maneuverability, making it suitable for post-disaster recovery missions, space exploration missions, and certain medical procedures. The ability to navigate narrow spaces and challenging terrains can greatly assist in these scenarios.

    3. What are the potential applications of mCLARI?

    The potential applications of mCLARI include search and rescue operations, exploring confined spaces, and performing specific medical procedures. Its versatility and agility make it a promising tool for missions that require accessing hard-to-reach areas or dangerous environments.

    4. Does mCLARI have cameras or sensors?

    At present, mCLARI does not have cameras or sensors. However, the researchers are considering equipping the robot with these technologies in the future to enhance its capabilities for search and rescue operations and other relevant tasks.

    5. How fast can mCLARI move?

    mCLARI can achieve a speed of 60 millimeters per second. Despite its small size, the robot’s lightweight nature enables it to move quickly and efficiently.