OC Robotics, a company from the United Kingdom, are developers of a robotic snake-like arm that looks like something from Spiderman.
This robotic snake is built to be able to reach into spaces too difficult and dangerous for human arms to reach. Its UK inventors claim that it can reach the unreachable. The robotic arm has been in development since 2001. Since then the company has worked on perfecting their snake robot.
This robot has garnered a lot of interest from companies in the industrial sector. Specifically, the robot has gained interest from companies in the nuclear sector who see this robot as an alternative to risking the lives of their employees.
The main challenge the company has faced for their robotic snake is how to power it. The movement of the snake makes it hard to develop a means of effectively managing its movement and power consumption. The company came up with a solution modeling its movement after the human body. The human body has large muscles that drive the movement of limbs. These muscles are connected to the limbs through a series of ligaments. In this case, the muscles have been replaced by actuators and the ligaments by wire cables.
Another major difference between the snake robot arm and a human arm is that the inner core of the snake robot is hollow. This allows the arms not only to be tools, but also to deliver tools. Specific tools have to be developed for the snake robot, but OC Robotics has so far only developed a handful of tools that fit. These tools are a camera, lighting system, tack welder, cutter and cleaning gear.
The robot is controlled on site by a human operator. The operator needs nothing more than a computer screen and a game pad to control the robot and put it through its paces.
OC Robotics even offers a simulator download all users need. Once the program is installed on a USB Xbox 360 controller, they are set to become operators of the snake robot. The company allowing the public to try out their robot via simulator is a smart move, as it allows potential buyers to get a feel for the product before they buy it.
While this robot looks like something from Doc Ock’s arsenal, it has the potential to help save hundreds of lives. Such a robot could easily reach around the debris caused by an earthquake, either moving it out of the way or tripping a fail-safe inaccessible to humans, making it perfect for nuclear facilities. This robot’s flexibility and versatility also make it perfect for disaster zones, allowing it to look under and around objects that would normally restrict a searcher’s view. This robot has a great deal of potential. It will be interesting to see where and how it’s utilized in the future.