Feeds

MIT boffins invent robot clam-grapnel

Tech has important mole-cruiser implications, too

Top 5 reasons to deploy VMware with Tegile

MIT boffins are pleased to annouce that they have at last perfected a long-sought-after technology - that of the robot clam. It seems that metal shellfish able to dig themselves into the seabed will make excellent anchors for somewhat larger droid submarines.

Amos Winter and colleagues at MIT unveiled their mechanical bivalve designs at a boffinry meeting in Minneapolis at the weekend.

"The best anchoring technology out there is an order or magnitude worse than the clam - most are two or three orders worse," says roboclam expert Professor Annette Hosoi.

Winter, Hosoi and fellow clamdroid enthusiast Alexander Slocum modelled their mooring machine on the remarkable Ensis directus, or Atlantic razor clam. These active little fellows can dig themselves the best part of a metre down into sand or mud in little more than a minute, using a cunning process whereby they convert the material immediately around them into "fluid" quicksand-esque stuff which is easier to move through.

The Winter, Hosoi and Slocum mecha-mollusc is apparently undergoing sea trials now amid the saltwater mudflats off Cape Cod. It uses air from a scuba tank for power, and is controlled by wire from the surface. It is "small, lightweight, and does not use a lot of energy," according to Hosoi.

Regular boats and ships already have acceptable anchors, but the kit doesn't scale down much beyond boat anchor size. The MIT clam-dig tech is intended at the moment for anchoring such things as small battery robo-subs used in oceanic science. It might also find a home with the US military's plans for a riverbottom-crawling, mud-burrowing reconnaissance robot.

That's all very well, of course. But the tech would also seem to have important implications in another neglected area of human achievement: that of the mole-cruiser. Along with flying cars, robotic or brainchipped-monkey butlers, rayguns, spaceships that can actually go somewhere without having to jettison most of themselves etc etc - we have been waiting for our underground mole-ships for quite some time. And all we are given in place of these things is a gradually easier and easier ability to update personal web pages - to the point where even showbiz personalities can now do so.

It's nice to see someone working on proper technology for once. ®

Beginner's guide to SSL certificates

More from The Register

next story
PORTAL TO ELSEWHERE scried in small galaxy far, far away
Supermassive black hole dominates titchy star formation
Boffins say they've got Lithium batteries the wrong way around
Surprises at the nano-scale mean our ideas about how they charge could be all wrong
Edge Research Lab to tackle chilly LOHAN's final test flight
Our US allies to probe potential Vulture 2 servo freeze
Europe prepares to INVADE comet: Rosetta landing site chosen
No word yet on whether backup site is labelled 'K'
Cracked it - Vulture 2 power podule fires servos for 4 HOURS
Pixhawk avionics juice issue sorted, onwards to Spaceport America
prev story

Whitepapers

Secure remote control for conventional and virtual desktops
Balancing user privacy and privileged access, in accordance with compliance frameworks and legislation. Evaluating any potential remote control choice.
Intelligent flash storage arrays
Tegile Intelligent Storage Arrays with IntelliFlash helps IT boost storage utilization and effciency while delivering unmatched storage savings and performance.
WIN a very cool portable ZX Spectrum
Win a one-off portable Spectrum built by legendary hardware hacker Ben Heck
High Performance for All
While HPC is not new, it has traditionally been seen as a specialist area – is it now geared up to meet more mainstream requirements?
Beginner's guide to SSL certificates
De-mystify the technology involved and give you the information you need to make the best decision when considering your online security options.