The Velveteen Robot
Researchers at MIT, Harvard, and Seoul National University have created a robotic worm. â€œSo what?â€ you ask. Theyâ€™re also making robotic horsesâ€”and robot hummingbirds, for goodness sake. Whatâ€™s promising about the new robot worm, thoughâ€”the Meshworm, as itâ€™s calledâ€”is that itâ€™s a different kind of robot.
Robots are machines, and weâ€™re accustomed to their looking like machinesâ€”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. Itâ€™s an example of the still-emerging field of â€œsoft robotics.â€