Clever but Creepy Tree-Climbing Robot Mimics Inchworms (Video)

inchworm robot image

Migrated Image / YouTube Screenshot

A new robot takes inchworms as inspiration for navigating its way up trees of any type, texture, or diameter. And the Treebot really does look like an inchworm as it finds a new hold on a tree's surface. Check out a video of the robot scaling various trees.

Treebot is the creation of Tin Lun Lam and his team at The Chinese University of Hong Kong. The researchers hope that Treebot could be a helpful tool for humans who might need to scale trees for dangerous tasks. The Treebot could do the climbing for them.

The inspiration for the robot's movements comes from the inchworm, as well as other arboreal animals. According to NewScientist, Treebot uses tactile sensors that can figure out a tree's shape to allow the robot to adjust its hold on the surface and navigate its way up tree trunks and over branches. As you can see from the video, it doesn't take long for the robot to feel around and know where it wants to grasp for the best hold. It can even take a payload up along with it. You'll notice that the movements are just like that of an inchworm.

inchworm robot image
Image / YouTube Screenshot

Using sensors rather than cameras allows the robot to save its battery charge for actually getting up the tree. However, as IEEE Spectrum notes, "At the moment, Treebot is more or less blind. This isn't necessarily a problem, but it could get where it wants to go much faster if it's able to tell which branches have the highest potential to allow it to efficiently climb higher up, so researchers are working on ways to help Treebot optimize its climbing path."