Apparently, some people still think it's smart to design robots like scary predatory animals. Why else would engineers from Carnegie Mellon University's Biorobotics Lab ever dream up these "Modsnakes," highly-articulated robots that can sinuously slither their way into otherwise inaccessible places.
Yes, they're robots that can move like snakes. That should be enough to send shivers down your spine. According to the CMU page, they've been able to "mimic all biological gaits," giving these "snakebots" the exact same movements as their real-life counterparts. Want to know what's worse? They're continuing to develop it to "go beyond biological capability." Samuel L. Jackson's Snakes on a Plane character is not happy.
The Modsnakes are modular robots, built from repeated segments of sensors and actuators that allow it an impressively wide range of movements. The modular segment part means they can be easily lengthened or shortened, depending on the tasks at hand. Once the robots begin thinking for themselves, they can probably self-assemble in the field, too, finally taking my giant snake robot nightmare one leap closer to reality.
CMU's latest snake robot, Uncle Sam, is featured in the video below. One of the more advanced of its kind, the scary serpent can roll, wiggle, side-wind, wrap itself around poles and even climb vertically. Fortunately, the team behind it says it can only climb trees of a certain width and its bio-mimicked movement still isn't enough to allow it to get past branches and wires. So you're still somewhat safe, puny human. For now.
Paranoid robot takeover ramblings aside, these snake robots will probably be very useful in many search and rescue situations. Even better, since it's segmented, so they can, in theory, drop any module that sustains damage and continue on their duties. Regardless of your feelings about robots, this is definitely one exciting project to keep a close eye on.