Chembot Squishy SquishBot Robots Desired By DARPA

ChemBots are soft, flexible robots that are able to alter their shape to squeeze through small openings and then regain their full size. DARPA is looking for them, and is ready to pay for them; iRobot, which makes PackBot and the Roomba, has the contract to provide them.

Here's the scoop from the program document:

(DARPA) is seeking innovative proposals to develop Chemical Robots (ChemBots): soft, flexible, mobile objects that can identify and maneuver through openings smaller than their static structural dimensions; reconstitute size, shape, and functionality after traversal; carry meaningful payloads; and perform tasks. ChemBots represent the convergence of soft materials chemistry and robotics to create a fundamentally new class of soft meso-scale robots that can perform the following key unit operations in sequence:

1. Travel a distance;

2. Traverse an arbitrary-shaped opening much smaller than the largest characteristic dimension of the ChemBot;

3. Reconstitute size, shape, and functionality after traversing the opening;

4. Travel a distance;

5. Perform a function using the embedded payload.

I'm thinking that DARPA and iRobot need to take a close look at these biomimetic soft-bodied "Gummi Bots" from a project at Tufts University.


(The Biomimetic Technologies for Soft-bodied Robots)

Science-fictional precursors for this idea include, of course, the liquid metal robot from Terminator 2. If that robot can imitate a floor, and reconstitute itself from a pool of metal, I think it will meet DARPA's criteria.

Read more about Gummi Bots; via Wired.

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