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Building robots that slither

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12:55pm, November 16, 2012

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Howie Choset is a roboticist, but his team’s creations bear little resemblance to C-3PO or R2-D2. Instead, Choset finds inspiration in nature — specifically, snakes.

“A lot of people have this notion that robots are modeled after people,” says Choset, of Carnegie Mellon University in Pittsburgh. But the animal kingdom is full of organisms that use different types of locomotion, he says.

The snake robots in Choset’s laboratory can slither, roll, swim and climb straight up. These slender machines, usually built from a series of metal pieces containing motors and electronics, can also squeeze into tight spaces.

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