'Snake Monster' robot has snake-bots for legs

A robot from Carnegie Mellon takes the snake-bot concept and uses the twisty robo-critters as legs for a strange new machine.

Amanda Kooser
Freelance writer Amanda C. Kooser covers gadgets and tech news with a twist for CNET. When not wallowing in weird gear and iPad apps for cats, she can be found tinkering with her 1956 DeSoto.
Amanda Kooser
2 min read

Snake Monster robot
Snake Monster goes for a mechanized stroll. Video screenshot by Amanda Kooser/CNET

It's a robot. It's a snake. It's a spider. It's Snake Monster! "Snake Monster" is the adorably creepy nickname given to a new robot from the Biorobotics Lab at Carnegie Mellon University. The DARPA-funded hexapod bot uses six snakelike legs to move around, responding to stimuli in its environment. If Doc Ock had a robo-pet, it would look like this.

The Biorobotics Lab has already been hard at work developing snakelike robots that use a sidewinding movement to get around. It also has a history of giving these bots engaging names like "Pepperoni" and "Spooky Snake." Now, we can welcome Snake Monster into the fold. Instead of letting its snake-bots slither free on the ground, it harnesses them as wiggly legs.

"The series-elastic actuators in each joint allow simultaneous position-velocity-torque control, enabling compliant motions using a simple alternating-tripod walking gait," reads the video description in a wonderfully geeky sentence that should give any robot fan the happy-shivers.

What that translates to is a very versatile robot, as demonstrated by the human in the video giving it a hard time. Snake Monster's companion wiggles its body, kicks it and sends it on a stomping mission to crawl over a bunch of packages to simulate a debris-filled path. The flexibility of the legs makes it capable of conquering the shifting terrain.

The spiderlike gait of the robot makes it fascinating to watch. To truly make Snake Monster the stuff of post-robo-apocalypse nightmares, it would need for those legs to be detachable and autonomous. In the meantime, we can enjoy the Carnegie Mellon's team latest example of animal-inspired machine evolution in action: