This is simultaneously creepy and cool. Scientists at MIT, Harvard, and Seoul National University, have created a wriggly new robot called Meshworm. If you guessed the name Meshworm comes from the fact that this soft robot is made of mesh and moves like an earthworm, then you’re entirely correct.
An electrified mesh tube, which looks like Chinese finger cuffs, is wrapped with a nickel and titanium wire that expands and contracts when charged with electricity. This creates a motion that mimics the segments of an earthworm’s body, and the robot to crawls in a process called peristalsis.
In addition to being kind of cute, in an unnerving kind of way, Meshworm also happens to be super tough. You can step on it, kick it, even bash it with a hammer if you like. Little dude will keep on inching across the ground. This durability allows the bot to crawl over rough, uneven terrain, and the flexibility of the exterior means it can squeeze down and fit into all sorts of tight spaces.
One of the envisioned uses of Meshworm is as an endoscope. And yes, that means you could one day go to the doctor for a checkup and wind up with one of these crawling around inside of you. I’m sure it’ll save people’s lives and revolutionize medicine, but damn that sounds eerie, a small robotic worm inching around your guts.
Other potential applications of this technology include adding artificial muscle to prosthetics, cell phones, computers, and cars. The prosthetics part makes sense, but can any of you explain why a cell phone needs muscles? They’re already smarter than me, do they really need to be stronger, too?