Read our COVID-19 research and news.

Watch this ‘snakebot’ pick up objects and climb walls

If you’re scared of snakes and robots, this new machine is bound to give you nightmares. Researchers have developed a “snakebot” composed of a series of round discs that sandwich foam bladders. A pneumatic tube and wires run down the center of the stacked modules, controlling the collapse of each bladder and causing the appendage to bend in that direction, like a contracting muscle bending a joint. When the researchers attached a suction cup to the end, powered with the same pneumatic tube, it could pick up and place objects, they report today in Science Robotics. The robot can also move around, crawling like an inchworm or rolling like a log. And with a suction cup at each end it can climb vertically up glass. The researchers envision modular blocks that can be assembled into different configurations beyond just snakes. A bot with pneumatic arms and legs could clean windows, fetch objects, or explore through small openings. The devices could also form robotic exoskeletons. It’s not an insult to say these bots really suck.