This snake-like welding robot slithers through pipes and makes repairs with lasers

When it comes to moving in tight spaces, the snake has an ideal shape — its long, slender, and flexible body allows it to twist and turn its way around obstacles. It’s not surprising then that the snake has become a favorite design among robotics engineers, who have increasingly turned to snakebots for surgery, rescue work, and industrial applications. The latest snakebot to make its debut is the LaserPipe, is a laser-equipped model that can weld pipes from the inside.

The LaserPipe robotic snake system is designed to troubleshoot and repair plumbing systems that are challenging to repair. Instead of going to great lengths to access a hazardous or tough-to-reach area, the mechanical snake can slither its way through the existing piping until it reaches the trouble spot. When a repair spot is detected, the operator can align the snake head and then use an in-bore laser welding system to make a repair to the pipe.

The LaserPipe was developed as a collaborative project between the UK-based OC Robotics and TWI Ltd, and was presented this month during the Innovate UK competition as a proof-of-concept. “The project outcome was a successful demonstration to industry,” says OC Robotics in a press release. “Conclusively proving the feasibility of in-bore laser welding using snake-arm robot technology for delivery and alignment.”

OC Robotics intends to continue its feasibility study with additional trials of the system planned for the coming weeks before funding ends in 2015. When finished, the team will analyze its results and report it results to the scientific community and industry as a whole. If additional funding can be secured, the company would like to add cutting to its snakebot’s repertoire of features and also improve the overall system with miniaturized optics, sealed units and more accurate alignment of the laser head.

Emerging Tech

‘Bionic mushroom’ can generate electricity without using fossil fuels

Researchers have come up with a way to produce electricity without fossil fuels using mushrooms covered with bacteria. The mushroom provides a safe environment for special cyanobacteria that generate electricity when light is shone on them.

Get your Sagan on with 60 awe-inspiring photos of the final frontier

Few things instill a sense of wonder quite like the final frontier. The best space photos show off the beauty of Earth, our solar system, and the far corners of the universe. Here are our current favorites.

How do Nintendo Switch, Xbox One X compare to each other? We find out

The Nintendo Switch is innovative enough to stand apart from traditional consoles, but could it become your primary gaming system? How does the Switch stack up against the Xbox One?

Why constrain yourself to one OS? Try one of these great virtual machine apps

Buying a new computer just because you want to utilize another operating system isn't necessary. Just use the best virtual machine applications to emulate one OS inside another -- no matter what your platform or budget is.

Calibrate your display to get it looking just the way you like it

Want to see images the way they're intended to be seen? Here is our quick guide on how to calibrate your monitor using your operating system or another tool, to make what's on the screen look as good as it can.
Emerging Tech

Curiosity rover active and drilling again after computer issue

The Curiosity rover has succeeded in drilling a hole into the tough bedrock that previously defeated it, allowing imaging and collection of samples. The rover had been incapacitated for a few weeks due to problems with its computer.
Emerging Tech

Awesome Tech You Can’t Buy Yet: 1-handed drone control, a pot that stirs itself

Check out our roundup of the best new crowdfunding projects and product announcements that hit the web this week. You may not be able to buy this stuff yet, but it sure is fun to gawk!
Emerging Tech

Astronomers discover two rogue planets that do not orbit a star

Astronomers have identified two rogue planets in our galaxy which do not orbit around a star. Unlike the vast majority of discovered planets, these rogue planets drift through space alone with no sun to shine on them.
Emerging Tech

Pairs of supermassive black holes spotted in colliding galaxies

Astronomers have discovered several pairs of supermassive black holes in galaxies that are colliding with each other. These black holes will spiral closer and closer together and eventually merge into one supermassive black hole.
Emerging Tech

Quantum-based accelerometer can locate objects without GPS

Researchers have created a quantum "compass" that allows navigation without satellites. The instrument, technically called a standalone quantum accelerometer, is small enough to be transportable and has a very high level of accuracy.
Emerging Tech

Ancient continent discovered beneath the ice of Antarctica

Antarctica could be hiding the remains of a long-lost continent. Scientists created a 3D map of the crust beneath the Antarctic ice sheet which shows a similarity to the crust in Australia and India, suggesting they used to be joined.
Emerging Tech

Rocket Lab steps into spotlight with its first commercial rocket launch

Rocket Lab has deployed multiple small satellites into orbit in its first notable commercial launch. Its New Zealand-born boss said the success means "rapid and reliable access to space is now a reality for small satellites."
Emerging Tech

Alibaba’s Singles’ Day sale smashes online shopping records

The annual online shopping frenzy that is Singles' Day this year raked in $30.8 billion, up from $25 billion last time around. The Alibaba-organized event generates more in sales than Black Friday and Cyber Monday combined.
Emerging Tech

Watch this lab-grown heart tissue beat just like the real thing

A team of researchers in Germany have used stem cells to create a lab-grown human heart tissue which actually beats, as well as responding to drugs in the same way as the real thing.