Robotic Amoeba Created: Teens Fear Bionic Blob

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Dennis Hong, of Virginia Tech College of Engineering is designing a Whole Skin Locomotion (WSL) mechanism for robots to work on much the same principle as the pseudopod — or cytoplasmic “foot” — of the amoeba. With its elongated cylindrical shape and expanding and contracting actuating rings, the WSL can turn itself inside out in a single continuous motion, mimicking the motion of the cytoplasmic tube an amoeba generates for propulsion.

The inventor says:

“Our preliminary experiments show that a robot using the WSL mechanism can easily squeeze between obstacles or under a collapsed ceiling,” Hong said. The mechanism, which can use all of its contact surfaces for traction, can even squeeze through holes with diameters much smaller than its normal width.

“This unique mobility makes WSL the ideal locomotion method for search-and-rescue robots that need to travel over or under rubble,” said Hong, who hopes his research will help promote the concept of bio-inspiration in robot design. “The mechanism also has the potential for use in medical applications — such as robotic endoscopes, for example, where a robot must maneuver in tight spaces.”

Of course my mind sees yet another version of an impnatable robot for medical diagnosis and treatment in the evolving realm of what I call “Future Vision”: the coming radical transformation of medicine.

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