In a new study published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences researchers report that they successfully tested their hypothesis on snake movement using robots made at Carnegie Mellon University. The researchers hypothesized that sidewinding snakes move using vertical and horizontal body waves that change in phase and amplitude to achieve exceptional maneuverability.
When the researchers tested their ideas on snake robots composed of 16 joints, the 37-inch long bots produced similar sidewinding behaviors. The researchers also discovered a third turning mechanism not seen in snakes. “Thus, we show that complex behaviors such as turning while sidewinding can emerge from independent modulations of each of the two waves comprising this control template, underscoring the utility of robots to test biological hypotheses,” reads the paper.
The research was done as a collaboration between folks at Carnegie Mellon, the Georgia Institute of Technology and Zoo Atlanta. The team believes their work could lead to more efficient and easier to operate bots in the future. Further, they believe snake robots could be useful for search and rescue work, as well as for power plant inspections and archaeological exploration.