Pentagon Researchers Unveil Blob-Like Robot

Published October 20, 2009

| FOXNews

The Pentagon has unveiled a new "chemical robot" that's half liquid, half solid…and all weird.

The new robot — which scientist are calling a ChemBot — moves by inflating and deflating parts of its body via a process called jamming. This causes its skin to change between semi-liquid and semi-solid states. Researchers say it could one day help save lives on the battle field.

Foxnews.com spoke with Ward Carroll, the editor of military.com, about the chembot.

"Jamming is simply introducing air into a membrane that's filled with particulate matter— BBs, if you will," he explained. "The plan is that this robot would go where other robots can't go, because it can change from a solid to a liquid-like state."

By doing this, scientists are able to make the ChemBot get bigger or smaller, roll it around, and with more precise control, even manipulate it to pass through cracks in walls and reform on the other side.

The Pentagon's research arm DARPA — short for the Defense Advanced Research Projects Association — just unveiled this weird creature at a conference on intelligent robot systems. The agency reportedly gave $3.3 million to iRobot to create this prototype; you may remember iRobot as the company behind the popular Roomba robotic vacuum.

"That's what DARPA does," points out Carroll. He explains that "the agency was invented in the wake of Sputnik back in 1958, and their charter is to keep American research and technology ahead of our potential enemies. They do all kinds of things like this."

ChemBots are just a proof of concept right now, a potential intelligence-gathering device, though they could be fast-tracked depending on how the concept is received and the potential applications devised. iRobot suggested that several disconnected ChemBots could pass separately through cracks in a wall, join together on the other side and reconstitute into a larger whole, for example.

"It's like a Wonder Twins thing," gushed Carroll. "It's like the Blob with an attitude."

URL

http://www.foxnews.com/scitech/2009/10/20/pentagon-researchers-unveil-blob-like-robot