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Paper-thin Robot

with annelid-like locomotion!
  (+6)
(+6)
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Imagine a piece of plastic cloth or mesh that crawls around like a worm or slug, bending itself upward to pull its hind side towards its midpoint, then extending its front half forward, thus taking one small slug step.

This unconventional robot would be lined with a lattice of "muscles" which would contract and expand along its length and width to produce annelid-like locomotion. The muscles could be made of the "molecular muscle" polymer that MIT's ISN [see link] is developing for the US Army [see link]. Or it could use the more readily available "Muscle Wires" that I found at [see link].

What would this thin, slow-crawling robot be good for? I don't know!--I have yet to think of a killer app. I guess it could crawl underneath doorways and such. Since it doesn't use motors it would perhaps be a relatively energy-efficient robot. With some solar cells it could inch around forever on sun power. I suppose you could design it in such a way that it could fold itself into one of those awesome paper helicopters [see link] and you could drop them out of planes to softly spin and float down to earth. Maybe the muscle lattice could also be used to wrap itself around things and grip them, thus imparting the robot with climbing abilities. One could attach floating devices to a side, and then in an aquatic environment the opposite side would sink, orienting the robot vertically and allowing for a fishlike side-to-side swimming motion. Or you could build a really really big one and it could bend itself from a folded piece of cloth into a tent-like structure for instant shade and shelter.

Timim, Jul 22 2004

... MIT's Institute for Soldier Nanotechnologies ... http://web.mit.edu/isn/
[jutta, Oct 04 2004, last modified Oct 21 2004]

snake robots http://www.snakerobots.com/
...cool movies... [bpilot, Oct 04 2004, last modified Oct 21 2004]

Roaming Goldfish Bowl http://www.halfbake...g_20Goldfish_20Bowl
Could be a mechanism for this [lostdog] idea. [Etymon, Oct 04 2004]

[link]






       Being flat, if properly configured, could it act as a dust pan to clean out, or retrieve items from under the refrigerator, couch, etc? (Not a killer app exactly since those things are easy for many people to move.)
half, Jul 22 2004
  

       I kinda like this idea; perhaps the infamous flying carpet can finally be realised...but less flying and more bubbly-floating carpet.
silverstormer, Jul 22 2004
  

       See vaguely related link.
bpilot, Jul 22 2004
  

       Welcome to the HB!
swimr, Jul 22 2004
  

       Good one(+). As far as killer app, these things should be relatively cheap, and could be sold as toys for awhile. Once enough folks play around with them, you may have all sorts of unintended neat uses popping up.   

       Right now, I can't shake the bad idea that someone's going to put advertisements on these things and slip them under your door for truly pervasive ads. (You'd find them all over your house.)
sophocles, Jul 22 2004
  

       ack! sophocles, you'd have to file that one under "public : evil." (WTAGIPBAN)
krelnik, Jul 22 2004
  

       If you could make them "Fast moving Robots", about 6" diameter, and with some sensing/AI technology thrown in, they could be "Active Coasters": that dart under your beer glass just as you are putting it down on the bar.
philmckraken, Jul 23 2004
  

       But this is an idea. The muscle fibre exists but as far as I know has never been woven and given a CPU and power supply to enable it to move in this fashion. As for what it would be used for, an enormous number of things exist purely for fun. If [pmboy] was in charge of the world we would never have seen weasel balls or sticky window lizards. +
stilgar, Aug 28 2004
  

       I think this is a very interesting idea. I have toyed around with a related idea for butterflies, using Nitinol wires, and solar cell/direct solar heating. The solar cell would have to very thin and light (not the usual construction with a thick aluminium backing). Make it light enough and it should fly.
The use? Simply an amusing toy that every kid will want to buy - if it's cheap enough.
Imagine if you could build one that could fly around in the Sun, and land in the evening.
[Timim]'s idea doesn't have to worry about power/weight so much, and it's movement could be slower. But if it was made to look cute, and had some kind of "personality" i.e. liked to find vertical faces so that it could sun itself, then I am sure it would sell.
Ling, Aug 29 2004
  

       None of the links work for me.
the fiddler, Mar 07 2006
  

       That is strange because they all worked for me.
bungston, Mar 08 2006
  
      
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