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Harvard researchers build Gumby-style robot (VIDEO)

The robot can crawl, slither and squeeze thorough tight spaces.
Gumby robot 2011 11 28Enlarge
The flexible robot in motion. (Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences/Screengrab)

A team of Harvard researchers has built a new type of soft robot whose movement is driven by compressed air, BBC News reported. Details about the Harvard robotics project appeared online today in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

The robot was inspired by sea creatures that lack hard skeletons like starfish and squid, the researchers told the BBC, but the robot most resembles the claymation character Gumby.

According to The Associated Press:

It’s the latest prototype in the growing field of soft-bodied robots. Researchers are increasingly drawing inspiration from nature to create machines that are more bendable and versatile than those made of metal.

The robot can crawl and slither, the AP reported. In one test, it squeezed underneath a glass plate 2 centimeters above the ground in less than a minute, BBC News reported.

“The unique ability for soft robots to deform allows them to go places that traditional rigid-body robots cannot,” Matthew Walter, a roboticist at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, told the AP.

Robotics researcher Carmel Majidi, who heads the Soft Machines Lab at Carnegie Mellon University, told the AP that this latest robot is a step forward in the field of robotics. “It’s a simple concept, but they’re getting lifelike biological motions,” he said.

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http://www.globalpost.com/dispatches/globalpost-blogs/weird-wide-web/harvard-researchers-build-gumby-soft-robot-video