Treebot tackles trunks, branches inchworm-style

Treebot can autonomously navigate its way up a tree and through the branches. Next up: nest-building skills?

Tim Hornyak
Crave freelancer Tim Hornyak is the author of "Loving the Machine: The Art and Science of Japanese Robots." He has been writing about Japanese culture and technology for a decade. E-mail Tim.
Tim Hornyak
The Chinese University of Hong Kong

We've seen robots that can slither up a tree and shimmy up telephone poles, and now engineers in Hong Kong have developed one that can crawl up trees autonomously.

Treebot is the work of Tin Lun Lam, Yangsheng Xu, and colleagues at the Advanced Robotics Lab in The Chinese University of Hong Kong.

It was designed to demonstrate how an autonomous robot can implement path and motion-planning algorithms.

A paper about Treebot was presented recently at the International Conference on Intelligent Robots and Systems (ICRA) in Shanghai.

It uses grippers and tactile sensors attached to its Slinky-style body to slowly move its front, then its back, up a trunk like an inchworm.

Although it lacks sophisticated sensors, Treebot can pick the best path to follow up a tree, and handle angled trunks, branches, and payloads of 3.8 pounds.

It can also climb different kinds of trees and various trunk diameters, even the smooth, slender trunks of bamboo.

In the sped-up video below, Treebot emits mechanical noises that make it sound like some sort of arboreal creature.

All it needs now is nest-building skills.