(Phys.org) -- As any gathering of scientists working with robots will suggest, attempts toward perfecting techniques and outcomes of grasping and maneuvering are key issues for researchers working on climbing robots. At this weeks IEEE International Conference on Robotics and Automation in Saint Paul, Minnesota, the robotics community got to see what a Chinese team has achieved in its presentation of Clothbot. This is a climbing robot that easily climbs up your pants or shirt. The Clothbot is small and lightweight, which did not deter from bloggers reactions that the device was creepy. System and Design of Clothbot: a Robot for Flexible Clothes Climbing, by Yuanyuan Liu, Xinyu Wu, Huihuan Qian, Duan Zheng, Jianquan Sun and Yangsheng Xu from the Chinese Academy of Sciences and the Chinese University of Hong Kong, was presented Tuesday at the IEEE event.
They have come up with a climbing robot with special features that they say include high maneuverability on flexible clothes. Clothbot has an omni-directional tail of two DOFs, say the authors, so that it can change its center of gravity to control the moving direction on complex clothes. Consequently, Clothbot can access most positions by moving straight and turning around, with only four motors.
The other feature they point to is Clothbots gripper design, consisting of two parallel wheels that can grip continuously and stably on various kinds of clothes. Clothbots gripping mechanism creates cloth wrinkles and then proceeds up the wrinkle. Those who watched the Cloithbot video concluded that all the robots need are wrinkles to really get going; the robots use the wrinkles to move along, inspiring, for the researchers anyway, ideas for end applications such as electronic toys or very upwardly mobile phones for users at times when they need to be hands-free.
The Clothbot will not leave a lot of marks as a result of its movements; only slight folds remain. The authors suggest besides an application as a tiny pet device climbing on human bodies or a climbing phone that the Clothbot can be applied for body inspection.
Clothbot is but one of many design and development efforts toward creating climbing robots that can be used in civilian and military applications. Observers say that progress has been made but the technology of climbing and walking robots still represents a challenging research area.
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More information: via IEEE Spectrum