Imagine a snake robot slithering on the Martian surface connected to a rover buddy robot. A feasibility study is underway to see if a rover/robot snake combo makes sense. Also, want to see the world's largest fire-breathing robot dragon? It's all here.
I've told you about my fixation on all things NASA and space in general, and I also love robotics. Recently, I blogged about the robots Atlas and Kirobo. A while back, I created a slideshow on robot coverage on Industrial Control DesignLine.
All this is leading to an announcement by SINTIF researchers of a feasibility study for the European Space Agency (ESA) on the possibility of putting snake robots on Mars.
The challenge with the Short Circuit-like rovers that are now dotting the Mars landscape is that they just aren't as maneuverable as they need to be. They do well with photography, taking samples, and covering long distances, but fitting into tight places is not their forte. Neither is moving on inclines or deep sand. In response to rover shortcomings, SINTEF researchers are studying snake robots.
The plan seems to be a rover/robot snake combo: The rover can cover the long distances, while the snake crawls on the ground. The combo also makes sense from a power basis. A cable will attach the rover and snake. The snake can draw power from the rover's abundant power source, and the cable can provide traction and communications.
To see how it twists, turns, and rolls, check out this short video.
SINTEF is the largest independent research organization in Scandinavia. It has 2,100 staff members from 68 countries. The contract from the ESA to make a robotic snake a reality is worth approximately $85,000. The feasibility study is scheduled to be submitted in December and will answer such questions as:
How and where will the robot snake attach?
Could the robot be one of the rover's arms?
Will a hoist mechanism be necessary?
SINTEF researchers Pål Liljebäck and Aksel Transeth, along with Knut Robert Fossum of NTNU's CIRiS, play with Wheeko the snake robot. (Source: SINTEF/Thor Nielsen)
Having spent considerable time in Costa Rica -- where snakes, five-inch escargot (like the one shown below), and untold, out-of-this-world creepy bugs rule -- I have an EEEEwwww factor at the thought of slithering, slimy creatures. Wheeko does kind of resemble a Costa Rican five-inch escargot, doesn't it -- especially in the antennae area?
Going from the serious science of the ESA to the Hollywood-type robot, here's the world's largest (according to the Guinness Book of World Records) walking, fire-breathing dragon robot. Except for the acting, this is a really neat video. I'm not sure what they're doing. It looks like a blood brother exchange from when we were kids -- well, when I was a kid. We didn't have video games, and we had to do something for fun.