This Robot Uses Tape Measures Like Spider-Man Uses Webs

It is scientifically impossible to use a tape measure to simply measure something. It’s the workshop tool for 1,000 other useless uses, including lightsabers, or to see how far it can stretch before the ribbon snaps. Researchers at Stanford University have found yet another use for the tape measure: as a way for robots to navigate rough terrain by exploiting the terrain itself.

ReachBot is actually an ongoing research project between Stanford’s Laboratory for Biomimetics and Skilled Manipulation, Stanford’s Autonomous Systems LabAnd NASA. The team hopes this novel approach to locomotion will make the robot good at exploring rough terrain, including underground caverns and caves, without snagging on natural obstacles like other robots can.

The idea behind ReachBot has been known to us for a number of years. Instead of legs or wheels or even a propeller, the robot would use a series of long extendable outriggers with claws on the end to reach out and grab objects to pull itself along. It’s a similar approach to how Spider-Man uses his webs to swing his way through a city, or how Batman uses his grappling gun to make giant jumps without superpowers, but slower and safer since ReachBot is over 100 million kilometers from his operators on earth could be removed .

ReachBot: A small robot with exceptional reach for rough terrain

It looks like Stanford’s BDML finally has a halfway working prototype of ReachBot, which it uses to demonstrate and further investigate the effectiveness of this unique approach to locomotion. But instead of using custom extendable outriggers, it starts more humbly with four self-extending tape measures.

ReachBot cannot swing through caves yet, but in a video recently shared on YouTube, it is able to move slowly on a smooth concrete floor by extending its tape measure arms and using specially made grippers on the ends to attach itself to large rocks strewn about the test facility. The approach allows moving from point A to point B with relative ease, but it also has additional benefits. At one point in the video, ReachBot uses three of its tape measure arms to fixate on three large rocks, and then the fourth to pull a heavy rock closer and take samples, or simply reposition the rock as another anchor point for its next move.

There is currently no timetable for when ReachBot will be ready to take off and explore other planets. As clever as tape measure reuse is, they must rely on outriggers with a longer and safer reach. As anyone who has played with a tape measure knows, you can only really extend it five to six feet before the tape “snaps” under its own weight and collapses. NASA won’t be sending Craftsman’s Best to Mars any time soon. This Robot Uses Tape Measures Like Spider-Man Uses Webs

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