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.
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.