Robot snake 'Uncle Sam' now climbs trees (w/ Video)

Sep 07, 2010 by Lin Edwards report
Image credit: Biorobotics Laboratory

( -- Uncle Sam, Carnegie Mellon's latest robotic snake, has been taught to climb trees. The snake is the newest version of "modsnake" created by the Biorobotics Laboratory at the Carnegie Mellon University in Pittsburgh.

The snake’s movements are biomimetic, mimicking movements of real snakes including side-winding, wiggling and rolling. Now the snake robot can also wrap itself around a tree trunk and climb vertically up the outside of the tree. An earlier version has previously been demonstrated climbing vertically inside pipes. The many internal degrees of freedom make the snake robots extremely flexible and maneuverable.

Uncle Sam is built using modular segments containing actuators and sensors, and the head segment is fitted with a camera. Being modular allows the snake robot the potential to be self-assembled in the field, and also simplifies repair of the robot if sections are damaged. The modular nature also means the robot’s length can be adjusted easily as needed.

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Biorobotics lab researchers say much work remains to be done before the snake robot can climb any tree and slither along branches, as Uncle Sam was designed for a specific trunk diameter and a specific tree. Work will also be needed on the power supply for the robot, since at the moment it must be tethered to the power supply.

Possible applications of robots include locating survivors in collapsed buildings after earthquakes or other . They could also be used for inspecting bridges, mines, and any spaces too tight for humans, and for disarming bombs. Previous versions of Carnegie Mellon’s modsnakes have already been tested in training exercises for disasters.

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User comments : 8

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not rated yet Sep 07, 2010
This would make an awesome rover for planet exploration!
not rated yet Sep 07, 2010
Yes I'll likely get voted down to oblivion but what the heck? Do the kids today have such a bad image of the US that they felt it necessary to deride one of our countries symbols by naming a snake Uncle Sam? Really?!

I know it must be très chic but it's still sad for some of us to see...
5 / 5 (1) Sep 07, 2010
Who says it's bad to name a snake robot Uncle Sam? Maybe for them it's a mark of respect. Maybe... the biorobotics technicians are Tea Partiers... "Don't tread on me!" and all that.
5 / 5 (1) Sep 07, 2010
The ground based movement looked a little awkward, but the tree leg climbing looked pretty cool. Pity about the giant lead needed to supply power...
not rated yet Sep 07, 2010
Is calling it Uncle Sam really an insult? I would think the bigger insult would be making one of your national symbols a pork farmer. Uncle Sam really doesn't stand for what America is, he's just a war-time symbol of the government.
not rated yet Sep 08, 2010
"Uncle Sam really doesn't stand for what America is, he's just a war-time symbol of the government."

Incorrect. "Uncle Sam is the national personification of the United States and sometimes more specifically of the American government... "

For more info: http://en.wikiped...fication

This (to me anyway) is sad that the robot builders seemingly went out of their way to use such a potentially controversial name for their snake robot. Something I would have otherwise been interested in learning more had the used an ordinary name.

If you think the name wasn't chosen to get attention and perhaps lots of snickers from the academics then why use that name? Also it's clear physorg also 'got the joke' cause the story written here makes a point to use Uncle Sam and snake in the headline!

Yes it's fun to mock something you detest! However, I though educated people were starting to rise above it. After reading this, I have my doubts.
not rated yet Sep 12, 2010
Before y'all go jumping to conclusions about the significance of the name - bear in mind that the color scheme of the ribbon cables and hardware is red white and blue - maybe that's how far it goes.
not rated yet Sep 17, 2010
@knikiy: damn straight!

Regardless of the name, this is a huge step forward, and the videos are awesome!

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