iRobot’s flesh-like ChemBot will freak you out, but it also could save your life someday.
The ChemBot might look like something out of a bad dream, but it’s actually a multimillion dollar military project. The Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) and the U.S. Army Research Office contracted iRobot, creator of vacuum-robot Roomba, to design the soft, flexible, mechanical ooze last year. This video might be a little technical at first, but if you skip to the 2 minute mark you can see the results of iRobot’s work thus far.
iRobot is not a company that just makes house cleaning robots. It has been providing military and civil defense forces with helpful robots for a while now, including the iRobot Warrior, a “large and rugged robot designed to carry 150-pound payloads”, and the iRobot PackBot which has performed “thousands of dangerous search, reconnaissance and bomb-disposal missions” according to iRobot’s website.
DARPA’s main purpose for funding the ChemBot is to create something that can “traverse soft terrain and navigate through small openings, such as tiny wall cracks, during reconnaissance and search-and-rescue missions.” The ChemBot should be able to do just that through a mechanism called “Jamming,” which allows for the transition between solid-like and liquid-like states with only a small change in volume. The first half of this video explains how “Jamming” works.
The ChemBot feels like the first step towards the creation of actual human-like robots similar to Battlestar Galactica‘s new Cylons. The creepy part about the ChemBot is how it looks as if it’s alive and breathing. Wars could probably be won just by rolling out a few dozen of these things in front of opposing forces to scare the bejeezus out of them. I definitely wouldn’t want to touch one, they look all gross and sticky.