The Velveteen Robot

The Velveteen Robot

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Researchers at MIT, Harvard, and Seoul National University have created a robotic worm. “So what?” you ask. They’re also making robotic horses—and robot hummingbirds, for goodness sake. What’s promising about the new robot worm, though—the Meshworm, as it’s called—is that it’s a different kind of robot.

Robots are machines, and we’re accustomed to their looking like machines—with joints and pumps and gears and hinges made of metal or rigid plastic. The Meshworm, being a worm, is flexible. It works like a muscle rather than a clock, undulating along the ground with the same peristaltic motion our esophagus performs when we swallow food. It’s an example of the still-emerging field of “soft robotics.”

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