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Ear to the Ground

Robo-Worm Might Give You the Creeps

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Posted on Aug 11, 2012
MITNewsOffice/YouTube

Scientists funded by the Pentagon have created a robot for the purpose of looking into hard-to-reach places, from spaces trapped beneath earthquake rubble to the private quarters of state enemies.

The miniature, autonomous “Meshworm” has a body of soft metallic mesh that crawls across surfaces by squeezing segments of its body like an earthworm. The robot survived multiple blows from a hammer and the stomping of a foot.

The British-based Chartered Institute for IT confirmed that the worm could be used for spying.

—Posted by Alexander Reed Kelly.

New York Daily News:

The worm was created with various flexible materials: a mesh-type tube for its body and nickel-titanium alloy for its muscle. The muscle is shape-memory material so it expands and contracts when exposed to heat, reports MIT. By sending a current through the wire, the team caused the robo-worm to move much like a real earthworm.

… Meshworm’s real-life counterpart inches along the ground by contracting and stretching their muscles throughout their bodies - a process called peristalsis. The human gastrointestinal tracts also use this process to carry food through the body.

Professor Kellar Autumn, a biomechanics specialist at Lewis and Clark College, thinks the team’s accomplishment hints toward technological developments in the near future that may affect us all. He predicts that shape-shifting synthetic muscles will appear in cars, cell phones and laptops, according to MIT. Additionally, the technology could help the medical field with implants, endoscopes and prosthetics.

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