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Watch a Snake Robot swim

Watch a Snake Robot swim

When they are sea snakes swimming, they make their way through the water by shaking their green tails, which is very elegant but requires a lot of coordination. So when the robotics at Carnegie Mellon University decided it was their time earth robot snake to take it to the water, they took a shortcut. They approached the incredibly complex snake biomechanics and then loaded them with machine propellers.

The result is a kind of rough, headless torpedo: a hardened snake of a modular underwater robot. As you can see in the video below, he manages an impressive swim by combining a stern thrust to control the stability of movement with lateral thrusts throughout his body and also uses some folding joints (actuators, in speech) to position the side thrusters. “It’s not so biologically inspired at the moment, but it’s still a pretty good robot,” says CMU robotist Howie Choset, who developed the machine code. “We’re doing something in the middle. We are trying to imitate the movement as best we can, perhaps on a macroscopic level, with conventional motors and actuation. ”

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That’s the beauty of robotics: engineers don’t have to follow the rules of natural selection. Choset and his colleagues want a robot that the U.S. Navy can use to inspect ships and submarines, which can slide into tight spaces, like ballast tanks. But it can be said for sure that the Army does not need a snake robot, that is, to bite it. “When biology is evolving, it’s evolving system“Says Choset.” He’s not developing a single ability. So the snake can seriously slip on the ground, but the snake also poops, eats, and even reproduces. The snake has all these other things that it needs to survive, but certainly not the benefits for the locomotive. in any way “.

Think about how a bird compares to an airplane, as it is biologically inspired to create a lift with its wings, but these wings are fixed and paired with jet engines. And nature is missing some of the extras given to the birds. “Airplanes travel long distances, but they don’t fly their wings and they don’t have feathers,” Choset says.

Choset’s team can approach snake design basically compared to evolution. The ground-based version of the robot uses actuators that move in concert to propel the machine forward, which is similar to what a real snake does. But in the water, the robot does not have to push hard surfaces – throw a version of the earth into a pool and it will sink like a very expensive stone. So instead of reproducing the hypnotic convertible movements of the sea snake — the intricate coordination between muscle and bone — the researchers chose to encourage and drive the robot.

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At the moment, the robot’s swimming is not particularly sophisticated, although the operator can control the machine through underwater hoops to find his way using the snake’s “face” camera. But the team’s idea is to refine the algorithms that control its movement, using machine learning: by building a digital version of the robot in simulation, an AI can try many, many random ways to swim, eventually taking the most efficient type of locomotion. through trial and error. Choset’s team would then take this knowledge to the real-world robot, giving them the maneuvers they needed to make a vortex in tight spaces. Other robotics are doing this with other machines that mimic animal locomotion, such as teaching a dog-shaped four-legged robot how to walk or adjust different types of surfaces.

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