Watch the snake robot go swimming

When sea snakes She swims, making her way through the water by moving her flat tails, which is very graceful but requires a great deal of coordination. So when the robotics scientists at Carnegie Mellon University decided it was time Robot snake To take her into the water, take a short cut. They approached the snake’s hugely complex biomechanics – then loaded the machine with propellers.

The result is a kind of wobbly torpedo, no warhead: a snake robot with ruthless underwater units. As you can see in the video below, she manages some impressive swimming by combining a back thrust to produce a forward movement with lateral thrusts along her body to control stability, plus she uses some bending joints (Engines, in language) To set lateral motives. “It’s less biologically inspired at the moment, but nonetheless, it’s a very good robot,” says Carnegie Mellon University roboticist Howie Choset, who coded the machine. “We’re doing something in the middle. We’re trying to simulate the motion as best we can, perhaps on a macroscopic level, using conventional motors and drive.”

Courtesy of CMU

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, and that can slide into narrow spaces, such as ballast tanks. But it’s safe to say the Navy doesn’t need a snake robot that bites either, let’s say. “When biology evolves, it evolves the systemIt doesn’t develop a single unique ability, says Chausset. So the snake can slip on the ground in unique ways, but the snake also defecates, it also eats, and it reproduces – it has all these other things on board for the survival of the snake but definitely not to serve the benefits of the locomotive anyway. ”

Think how a bird compares to a passenger plane, which is biologically inspired in that it produces lift force with wings, but these wings are anchored and coupled with a jet engine. And they miss some of the additions that nature has provided to birds. “Planes fly long distances, but their wings don’t flap, and they don’t have feathers,” says Chausset.

The Choset team can handle snake design in a way that is fundamentally different from evolution. The ground version of their robot uses symmetrically moving actuators to propel the machine forward, which is similar to what a real snake does. But in the water the robot does not have a hard surface to propel it away – drop the Earth version into a swimming pool and it will sink like an expensive stone. So, rather than reproducing the hypnotic twisting motions of a sea snake – a complex coordination between muscles and bones – the researchers chose the impulses that drive and direct the robot.

Courtesy of CMU

Currently, the swimming robot is not particularly complicated, although the operator can control the machine remotely through underwater hoops using a camera in the “face” of the snake to find the way. But the team’s idea is to improve the algorithms that control its movement using machine learning: By building a digital version of the robot in the simulation, the AI ​​can experiment with many random ways of swimming, and ultimately land on the most efficient type of movement. Through trial and error. The Choset team then transfers that knowledge to the robot in the real world, giving it the maneuverability it really needs in tight spaces. Other robotics scientists are doing this by using other machines that simulate the movement of animals, in fact, for example, teaching a four-legged robot that looks like a dog. How to walk Or adapt to it Different types of roofs.

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