Mechatronic engineer Dimuthu Kodippili Arachchige and his team at the RoME Lab at DePaul University have developed a flexible robot that wiggles like a seal moving on land. The robot had four identical legs set up in an X formation. These legs are made up of three flexible silicone tubes that can be filled with fluid to make them more rigid, depending on what is needed at the time. The robot can be particularly useful in situations where wheels or feet can’t enter.
With heavy bodies and small flippers, seals are not the most graceful movers out of water. But despite appearances, a robot that mimics the way they flop over dry land might be effective in search and rescue operations where a wheeled robot would struggle, say researchers.
Arachchige told New Scientist that he was inspired by the movement of pinnipeds, noting that their bodies best move when going backward.
Most of a seal’s weight is concentrated towards the rear of their body, but due to the even distribution of weight in the robot, it becomes challenging to stay upright while moving forward,..On the contrary, when it’s moving backward, the robot’s body helps maintain the balance by countering torque produced by its movement.