Imagine a robot that can wedge itself through the cracks in rubble to search for survivors trapped in the wreckage of a collapsed building. Engineers are working toward to that goal with CLARI, short for Compliant Legged Articulated Robotic Insect.
Inspired by the sheer tenacity and adaptability of insects, a team of engineers at the University of Colorado, Boulder (CU Boulder), has developed a ground-breaking miniature robot—CLARI (Compliant Legged Articulated Robotic Insect)—that can alter its form to maneuver through tight spaces. With its shape-shifting abilities, this little machine could revolutionize disaster response operations.
Smaller than the palm of a human hand and lighter than a Ping Pong ball, CLARI can change its physique from a square to a narrow, elongated form, enabling it to squeeze through constricted areas. In a media release, Heiko Kabutz, a doctoral candidate at CU Boulder’s Paul M. Rady Department of Mechanical Engineering, emphasized, "CLARI's ability to passively adapt to its surroundings makes it an ideal candidate for roles we haven’t even thought of yet."
With its current four-legged structure, CLARI is modular by design. This flexibility allows for a wide array of adjustments, including adding more legs. Kabutz envisions an eight-legged, spider-inspired robot capable of traversing webs. "The modular design opens a realm of possibilities, transforming it into a versatile tool with a variety of applications," Kabutz added, according to a report by Interesting Engineering scientific website’s report.
Despite its promise, CLARI is still tethered by wires that provide power and basic command inputs. Assistant Professor Kaushik Jayaram, co-author of the study, looks forward to a day when these mini-robots will roam autonomously. “CLARI is in the early stages, but the goal is to create robots that can venture into spaces where no mechanical entity has gone before, such as the inside of jet engines or under the debris of collapsed buildings,” Jayaram noted.
The researchers unveiled their innovative design in a study published on August 30 in the academic journal "Advanced Intelligent Systems."