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Patriotic snake robot slithers up a tree

For its latest trick, Uncle Sam, a Snakebot from Carnegie Mellon University, slithers out of the lab and up a tree, where it looks around with its camera-enabled head.

We're betting some of our readers will spend the long weekend communing with nature, where they'll hopefully encounter sunshine, blue skies, and the fresh smell of pine trees--and robotic snakes climbing up trees.

Uncle Sam Snakebot
Video screenshot by Leslie Katz/CNET

Actually, the last sight is fairly unlikely, unless they're hanging out near Pittsburgh's Carnegie Mellon University. The reptile-inspired Snakebot out of the school's Biorobotics Lab can make its way up a tree impressively, as the new CMU video below demonstrates.

We've previously watched the Snakebot wrapping itself around poles and climbing vertically inside pipes. For its latest trick, a red, white (more silver, really), and blue Snakebot named "Uncle Sam" slithers out of the lab with its biologically inspired gait, wiggles up a tree, and looks around with its camera-enabled head in a strangely lifelike way. It does not, however, sing the "Star-Spangled Banner."

CMU Snakebots such as Uncle Sam have already been used in disaster training exercises around the world and one day could be employed in search and rescue operations to thread through tight spaces that humans and conventional wheeled and legged robots may not be able to reach. The modular robots are built from repeated segments of sensors and actuators, meaning their length can be easily adjusted and they could possibly self-assemble in the field.

Researchers at CMU note that for their tree-climbing experiment, Uncle Sam climbed a specific tree with a specific trunk width. "The researchers working to design, build, and program these robots still have much work to do to get these bots to climb taller trees of various sizes and to navigate over branches and wires," the video description reads.

We hope they get there soon. We'd much rather run into one of these on our camping trip than a bear.

(Via Singularity Hub)