This soft and flexible leech-inspired robot can climb walls

The creepy crawly in the video above is a robot called the Longitudinally Extensible Continuum-robot inspired by Hirudinea (LEeCH) which can elongate and bend its body to climb walls, just like a leech. The robot is made from a shower hose with two suction cups attached and is part of a growing trend of soft robots which are flexible and adaptable.

Not only can the LEeCH climb up walls, it can also transition to horizontal surfaces. This makes it the first soft and flexible robot able to move freely on wall surfaces.

A wall-climbing robot could be used for tasks like building inspection and maintenance, or for search and rescue operations after disasters.

To design the robot, the scientists took cues from the natural world, looking at the movements of soft-bodied creatures like amoeba, worms, and octopuses. Their locomotion is “safe, robust, and adaptable and has great promise for applications in complex environments,” according to the paper from the team lead by Dr. Tomoaki Mashimo, Associate Prof. of Department of Mechanical Engineering at Toyohashi University of Technology, and Dr. Fumiya Iida, a reader in robotics of the department of Engineering at the University of Cambridge. These organisms “fully exploit the potential provided by their soft structures.”

The practical implementation of the three flexible tubes which make up the LEeCH was inspired by a more human daily task: taking a shower. “I came up with the idea in the bathroom of my house,” doctoral student Ayato Kanada, lead author of the paper, said in a statement. “The shower hose went wild as if it had a life [of its own] when I inadvertently turned on the faucet at maximum. Then an idea occurred to me that if I could manipulate a hose, I might be able to make a robot with [the] dynamic movement of living creature.”

The next challenge for the team is finding a way to improve the movement of the robot in three dimensions, as currently the LEeCH can only move in a limited plane. They are also looking for ways to make the robot more stable when it is stretched to maximum and to control its stiffness.

The findings are published in the journal Soft Robotics.

Emerging Tech

Ford’s bipedal delivery robot can walk straight up to your doorstep

Autonomous wheeled delivery robots are seemingly everywhere in 2019. Agility Robotics' Digit robot takes a different approach: It promises to carry out its deliveries while walking on two legs.
Deals

Roomba and Shark Ion robot vacuum cleaners get big price cuts for Memorial Day

Your Memorial Day BBQ is all planned out, but what about the post-party cleanup? If you act quickly enough you might be able to get some robot help in time for the cleanup thanks to a few good sales on robot vacuums this weekend.
Emerging Tech

The rise and reign of Starship, the world’s first robotic delivery provider

Excited about the impending delivery robot revolution? If so, you need to get familiar with Starship Technologies, the company which pioneered the whole thing. Here's what you need to know.
Emerging Tech

Friendly cube robot Bumble passes its first hardware test aboard the ISS

There are some unexpected guests aboard the International Space Station (ISS): cute cube robots called Astrobees. Now the first Astrobee robot has undergone hardware tests to check whether its subsystems are working correctly.
Digital Trends Live

Digital Trends Live: Huawei updates, Starlink launch, and Pac-Man’s birthday

On this episode of DT Live, we discuss the ongoing Huawei saga, Amazon’s social games for workers, Ford's partnership with a robotics company, the Starlink satellite launch, Pac-Man’s birthday, and more.
Emerging Tech

Las Vegas officials bet big on Elon Musk’s Boring Company

Elon Musk’s Boring Company has just been awarded a $48.6 million contract by Las Vegas to build a high-speed transportation system beneath the city’s enormous convention center, and it could be ready by early 2020.
Emerging Tech

I mainlined a bag of liquid vitamins — for science

Healthy people are signing up for treatments that are typically saved for patients stuck in hospital beds. Known as nutrient IV therapy, the treatment entails pumping vitamins, minerals, and fluids directly into the bloodstream, bypassing…
Emerging Tech

Airbus shows off the futuristic interior of its autonomous flying taxi

Airbus has given us the first look inside its single-seat flying taxi. The absence of controls in the Vahana electric aircraft is a reflection of its autonomous capabilities, so you can just sit back and enjoy the ride.
Emerging Tech

Future smart clothes promise to keep you the perfect temperature at all times

Regulating your body temperature can sometimes be tough. Engineers from UC San Diego have developed heating and cooling wearable tech which could be embedded into future smart clothing.
Emerging Tech

Japanese spacecraft Hayabusa 2 aborts marker drop mission

The Hayabusa 2 spacecraft's mission to drop a reflective marker on the surface of asteroid Ryugu has been aborted. The Japanese team was considering a second touchdown on the asteroid to collect more materials, but this now seems unlikely.
Emerging Tech

Whose name should we etch on the Mars 2020 rover? NASA wants a vote

Dream of making it to Mars? NASA has opened up a new public outreach program to let people send their names to the Red Planet, as an engraving on a silicon chip launched with the Mars 2020 rover.
Emerging Tech

Watch live as SpaceX tries, for the third time, to launch 60 Starlink satellites

SpaceX is having another go at launching the first 60 satellites for its ultra-ambitious Starlink internet constellation. Here's how you can tune in live to watch it all go down today.
Emerging Tech

SpaceX joins internet-from-space race with launch of 60 Starlink satellites

SpaceX has launched a Falcon 9 rocket carrying its first batch of Starlink satellites for its ambitious internet-from-space project. The payload, SpaceX's heaviest to date, successfully deployed an hour after liftoff.
Emerging Tech

What would it take to build a Matrix-level simulation of reality?

What would it take, technologically speaking, to build a real version of the Matrix? We definitely don't have the technical abilities to do that now, but we're rapidly approaching the point that we will. In this article, MIT computer…