Search and rescue missions have followed each of the devastating earthquakes that hit Haiti, New Zealand and Japan during the past 18 months. Machines able to navigate through complex dirt and rubble environments could have helped rescuers after these natural disasters, but building such machines is challenging.
Researchers at the Georgia Institute of Technology recently built a robot that can penetrate and “swim” through granular material. In a new study, they show that varying the shape or adjusting the inclination of the robot’s head affects the robot’s movement in complex environments.
“We discovered that by changing the shape of the sand-swimming robot’s head or by tilting its head up and down slightly, we could control the robot’s vertical motion as it swam forward within a granular medium,” said Daniel Goldman, an assistant professor in the Georgia Tech School of Physics.