CLARI: The Shape-Changing Robot Inspired by Bugs

CLARI, short for Compliant Legged Articulated Robotic Insect, is a small and adaptable robot designed by engineers at the University of Colorado Boulder. Weighing less than a Ping Pong ball and easily fitting in the palm of your hand, CLARI has the ability to change its shape to fit through narrow gaps.

The robot’s modular design allows engineers to customize and add more legs, potentially creating unique and flexible robots. Currently, CLARI has four legs, but the researchers hope to develop an eight-legged, spider-style robot in the future. This evolution would enable the robot to navigate over webs, opening up new possibilities for exploration and traversal.

Although CLARI is still in its early stages and requires tethering to wires for power and command transmission, the ultimate goal is for these tiny robots to operate independently. The researchers envision CLARI being deployed in challenging environments, such as inside jet engines or collapsed buildings, aiding first responders and providing assistance where humans cannot safely access.

The inspiration for CLARI comes from the insect world, particularly cockroaches that can squeeze through narrow cracks. The team sought to explore different methods of compression, leading to the creation of CLARI, which is capable of navigating horizontal gaps. By manipulating its shape, CLARI can change from a square to a more elongated form, allowing it to fit through tight spaces.

Each leg of CLARI functions independently, like individual robots, with its own circuit board and dual actuators. This modularity enables the robot to adapt to various environmental conditions and take on different shapes, mimicking the flexibility observed in nature.

The researchers behind CLARI aim to develop general-purpose robots that can change shape according to their surroundings, similar to amoebas in the animal kingdom. They envision a future where robots can adapt and maneuver in unpredictable situations, making them highly versatile and capable of handling a wide range of tasks.

Source: University of Colorado Boulder