Feeds

MIT boffins invent robot clam-grapnel

Tech has important mole-cruiser implications, too

The smart choice: opportunity from uncertainty

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. ®

Eight steps to building an HP BladeSystem

More from The Register

next story
Malaysian Airlines flight MH17 claimed lives of HIV/AIDS cure scientists
Researchers, advocates, health workers among those on shot-down plane
Forty-five years ago: FOOTPRINTS FOUND ON MOON
NASA won't be back any time soon, sadly
Mwa-ha-ha-ha! Eccentric billionaire Musk gets his PRIVATE SPACEPORT
In the Lone Star State, perhaps appropriately enough
MARS NEEDS OCEANS to support life - and so do exoplanets
Just being in the Goldilocks zone doesn't mean there'll be anyone to eat the porridge
The Sun took a day off last week and made NO sunspots
Someone needs to get that lazy star cooking again before things get cold around here
Diary note: Pluto's close-up is a year from … now!
New Horizons is less than a year from the dwarf planet
Boffins discuss AI space program at hush-hush IARPA confab
IBM, MIT, plenty of others invited to fill Uncle Sam's spy toolchest, but where's Google?
prev story

Whitepapers

Seven Steps to Software Security
Seven practical steps you can begin to take today to secure your applications and prevent the damages a successful cyber-attack can cause.
Consolidation: The Foundation for IT Business Transformation
In this whitepaper learn how effective consolidation of IT and business resources can enable multiple, meaningful business benefits.
Designing a Defense for Mobile Applications
Learn about the various considerations for defending mobile applications - from the application architecture itself to the myriad testing technologies.
Build a business case: developing custom apps
Learn how to maximize the value of custom applications by accelerating and simplifying their development.
Consolidation: the foundation for IT and business transformation
In this whitepaper learn how effective consolidation of IT and business resources can enable multiple, meaningful business benefits.