A team of researchers from the University of Toronto has created a small robot that moves in the same way as an inchworm.
According to the scientists, the technology underlying their feat could transform multiple industries such as aviation and smart wearables.
The team combined their two areas of research (smart materials and electrothermal actuators - polymers that can be programmed to physically respond to electrical or thermal changes) to create a robot that can crawl and curl.
They have said that the power needed to induce robot motion is more efficient than anything they have come across in the research literature.
Replacements for Bulky Robots?
Members of the team believe the kind of soft, small moveable robots they are creating could one day take over from heavy, bulky robots that are commonly used in manufacturing industries.
"Right now, the robots you'll find in industry are heavy, solid and caged off from workers on the factory floor, because they pose safety hazards," explained Professor Hani Naguib who heads the research team.
"But the manufacturing industry is modernizing to meet demand. More and more, there's an emphasis on incorporating human-robot interactions," he added. "Soft, adaptable robots can leverage that collaboration."
However, the most immediate impact of their research could be in wearables as the scientists are working to apply their technology to garments.
Research continues on the robot with the team looking at speeding up its motion and changing its configurations. Currently, it moves like a worm, but the scientists predict their technology could be used to train robots to mimic many kinds of movements.
To see the small bot in action watch the video below.