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Snakebot Burrows Underground, Thanks To Biomimicry Of Multiple Species

Although I've covered many snakebots on this site over the years (see Snake Robot Roundup! and Snake Robot Roundup - Part Two), researchers at UCSB and Georgia Tech have come up with a great new robot.

One of the biggest challenges of burrowing through any material is the friction created, and having to overcome it. So the researchers took more inspiration from nature and copied the mechanism plants use to dig deep into the soil by growing only from the tip, leaving the rest of the root stationary. The snakebot does the same thing, growing only from the end of the bot so the rest of its body doesnít actually move at all, eliminating a major source of friction...

Like the southern sand octopus which shoots a jet of water into the ocean floor to loosen sand so it can bury itself as a protective defense mechanism, the snakebot fires a blast of air ahead of it to create a fluidized version of sand and soil thatís easier to push through...

I'd also point out that venomous snakes have triangle-shaped head, which warn other animals to stay away...

The researchers point out that "the burrowing snakebot does have some genuinely useful applications, and not just giving the militaries of the world an autonomous weapon that can burrow beneath walls, barbed wire, fields of land mines, and other obstacles." Well, who would ever think about those possibilities, anyway?

Well, Philip K. Dick wrote about "claws" from his 1953 short story Second Variety:

Some of the little claws were learning to hide themselves, burrowing down into the ash, lying in wait...

This was the basis for the film Screamers.

I'd also point out the robot earthworm, specifically designed to compromise Cold War era underground bunkers, from the 1962 story War With The Robots by Harry Harrison:

The robot reached out - leaning very close to focus its microscopic eyepieces - and carefully pulled one of the strands free. It lay on the robot's outstretched metallic palm, eight inches long, an eighth of an inch in diameter. Seen close it was not completely flexible, but made instead of pivoted and smoothly finished segments. The robot pointed out the parts of interest.

Update 12-Nov-2023: The demonstration starting at at 1:40 in the video above demonstrating the passage of the robot snake through the sand reminds me of a similar scene from Tremors (1990):

End update.

Thanks to @nyrath for tweeting about this. And Gizmodo.

Scroll down for more stories in the same category. (Story submitted 6/5/2021)

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