Robot snakes seem like something people would usually run away from with some speed. If you mention the words in the same sentence with “disaster area,” the listener is likely to conclude that they caused the disaster, or at least loomed menacingly on the sidelines as the survivors scrambled for safety. However, science vehemently disagrees with this sentiment. In fact, on February 19, 2020, the Guardian reported that the good people at Johns Hopkins University have not only built a big robotic snake — they say that said snake is actually on our side. To be fair, it’s unlikely that this is a secret supervillain plot, because the head of the project, assistant professor Cheng Li, comments the project as follows: “We look to these creepy creatures for movement inspiration because they’re already so adept at stably scaling obstacles in their day-to-day lives. Hopefully our robot can learn how to bob and weave across surfaces just like snakes.”
So, at least they’re aware of the inherent creepiness factor of building robot snakes. So … why are they doing it in the first place?
Robot snake might be your best buddy after an earthquake
Turns out, snakes are really, really good at getting in various hard-to-access places, which would make them excellent helpers in things like search and rescue, and disaster relief. Of course, snakes are also considerably more difficult to train than, say, dogs, and even if you could train them, the last thing people want to see after a building has already collapsed on them is a huge, terrifying snake closing in. So, science is going for the next best bet, which is building robots that can move like snakes. The Johns Hopkins creation is one of the most successful attempts so far, as it’s nearly as fast as a real snake, and can also climb huge steps. So, while no one might actively want to see a robot snake coming at them, this guy has the potential to save you from becoming “hiss-tory” in the unfortunate incident that you’re caught underneath the rubble after a natural disaster.
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