Robotics experts at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology have developed a new type of robot that has somewhat plant-like limbs that can grow on its own before lifting heavy objects through narrow spaces. This bike-chained arm is clearly flexible enough to find its way in more or less space, rigid enough to lift the load or apply torque. Chains extend along interlocking 3D print blocks, which extend the arms when fixed together.
The winch is used to turn the chain and is fed in through a set of motors that can be programmed to lock the print block into a different configuration. By locking some blocks together and unlocking others, you can make the arm grow in different shapes and directions. Once the task is complete, the robot can retract its arm and restretch it in different configurations to accommodate the new task.
The robot aims to solve the “last foot problem”, which is essentially a question of how the robot handles tasks when it reaches its target position. Although robots can spend most of their time traveling, it will be useless if they are unable to perform tasks on arrival.
In addition, MIT developers point out that the robot has more everyday uses, such as reaching for something behind the shelf or entering the vehicle’s engine for maintenance. Researchers at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology say the robot can easily do the complex work by opening the top cover flexibly enough to turn left and right to reach the oil filter, and then provide a tool strong enough to twist the oil filter cover to remove it.