Whether or not snakes give you the willies, they are a valuable inspiration for researchers looking at how to improve robot mobility. Hamid Marvi, a graduate student in mechanical engineering at the Georgia Institute of Technology in Atlanta, is taking a closer look at their use of friction to go up an inclined plane without sliding backwards or falling off.
Inside Science reports that snakes rely on friction to move forward or even to stay in one place such as when they're sleeping. The way they help create friction for themselves is in the texture of their scales, and that is where researchers are focusing their interest.
"Marvi and his colleagues adopted these principles to create Scalybot, an artificial robot designed to climb inclined planes. Scalybot contains scale-like teeth along the bottom of its body, and these teeth can raise or lower depending on what it needs to do to navigate the environment," states Inside Science.
Scalybot2, the latest version of the robot, has a built-in acceleration sensor and the scales can adjust to different angles until the right amount of friction is found. The goal of the researchers is to develop a Scalybot that can be used to improve the way other robots can move and can potentially be used for search and rescue in rubble and other unstable terrain.