Underwater Snail-o-Bot gets kick from light

Researchers at the Max Planck Institute for Intelligent Systems in Stuttgart in cooperation with Tampere University in Finland developed a gel-like robot inspired by sea slugs and snails they are able to steer with light. Much like the soft body of these aquatic invertebrates, the bioinspired robot is able to deform easily inside water when exposed to this energy source. Due to specifically aligned molecules of liquid crystal gels – its building material – and illumination of specific parts of the robot, it is able to crawl, walk, jump, and swim inside water. The scientists see their research project as an inspiration for other roboticists who struggle to design untethered soft robots that are able to move freely in a fluidic environment. Such inventions could one day play a pivotal role in the research field of minimally-invasive robotic medical applications. In the video: the top left panel represents crawling with 2X speed; the middle left represents walking with 2X speed, bottom left represents jumping with 2X speed, and the right panel represents swimming with 1X speed.

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