Inspired by the unlikely pairing of shower hoses and leeches, researchers from Japan and the U.K. have created what they claim is a first-of-its-kind robot — one that’s soft, flexible, and able to move freely on a wall.
“I came up with the idea in the bathroom of my house,” Toyohashi University of Technology researcher Ayato Kanada said in a press release. “The shower hose went wild as if it had a life when I inadvertently turned on the faucet at maximum. Then an idea occurred to me that if I could manipulate a hose, I might be able to make a robot with dynamic movement of living creature.”
The living creature Kanada and his colleagues decided to mimic is evident in their bot’s name — Longitudinally Extensible Continuum-robot inspired by Hirudinea, or LEeCH— and they describe its creation in a paper published recently in the journal Soft Robotics.T
The robot features a leech-inspired suction cup at each end of a long, flexible body. The researchers fashioned the body out of shower hoses, which move through a gear while vacuum pumps control the robot’s suction cups.
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This design gives LEeCH its ability to not just climb vertical walls, but climb over them to reach the opposite side — a skill the researchers suggest could one day prove useful for everything from building inspections to search and rescue missions.