New MIT Robot that can Grow Like a Plant
Most robots that currently in use in industries require a wide-open space to operate and remain fixed in terms of their dimensions: It’s very rare to find a robot that can truly morph to meet the needs of different tasks.
MIT has developed a new kind of robot that can maybe act as a solution to this common challenge for industrial and commercial robots, which is reaching into tight spaces or navigating cluttered parts of factories or warehouses. This new ‘growbot’ can essentially extend itself — “growing” in a way that’s surprisingly similar to how a young plant grows upward.
It uses a bicycle chain-like apparatus, differing only in that its links are interlocking blocks that can “lock” into one another to form a rigid column, then “unlock” to return to a flexible state. This means a robot could pack this chain-like appendage loose in a container, drive across a factory floor to a bit of machinery, then extend a growing “arm” inside the machinery where it otherwise wouldn’t be able to reach to manipulate a control or to point a sensor to check for damage, for instance.
Unlocking this kind of flexibility for industrial robotics would be a step towards opening up entirely new and more varied applications of robots on the job.