(Capitol Column) The United States government and others now have a useful new tool they can develop for their arsenals. Researchers at MIT, Harvard University and Seoul National University have created a soft, autonomous robot called a “Meshworm” that resembles an Earthworm. The project was funded by The Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA).
The Meshworm is a robot that moves via peristalsis, crawling across surfaces by contracting segments of its body, much like an earthworm. Sangbae Kim, the Esther and Harold E. Edgerton Assistant Professor of Mechanical Engineering at MIT, says such a soft robot may be useful for navigating rough terrain or squeezing through tight spaces, according to MIT news.
The Meshworm was named for the flexible, meshlike tube that makes up its body. The shell is so resilient that it that went unscathed even after scientists stepped on it and bludgeoned it with a hammer. The pliable exterior also makes them safe for human interaction. In addition to its resilience and maneuvering capabilities, the Meshworm creeps silently, one quarter inch at a time.