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A Lesson from Reptiles: How a Snake’s Motion Can Inspire Better Robots

March 14, 2019 / Richard Adefioye

There’s no doubt about it, robotics is here to stay. An estimated $103 billion went into robotics research in 2018 to solve some pressing issues associated with the design of autonomous robots. One such problem was the difficulty associated with a robot’s motion on granular surfaces such as sand, rubble or leaf litter. According to a new study, snakes have a lot to teach us about seamless mobility on complicated surfaces.
In the study, which closely monitored the movement of eight Western shovel-nosed snakes through an obstacle course containing six force-sensitive pegs, researchers observed that when the snakes collide with obstacles, they behaved like light waves encountering a diffraction grating.