Caterpillar Robot Crawls and Senses Surroundings with Squishy Legs

Researchers from Japan's Tohoku University and the University of Tokyo have developed a soft-bodied crawling robot inspired by the tobacco hornworm caterpillar. This robot uses deformations of its body to detect changes in friction force on a substrate. This information is used to provide local sensory feedback for coupled oscillators that control the robot's locomotion. The robot has four contracting segments and 3D-printed soft legs. As seen in this video, when its soft legs press against the floor, they bend, which is a signal to crawl. Green tape covering the middle legs makes them slip instead of bend, allowing the bot to inch along.