In a development unlikely to ease anxieties about the coming age of robots, scientists have developed one that slithers around like a snake.
Researchers at the Georgia Institute of Technology, Carnegie Mellon University, Oregon State University and Zoo Atlanta studied the movement of sidewinding desert rattlesnakes and determined they are able ascend dunes by extending the “length of their body in contact with the sand” as incline increases.
“Implementing this strategy in a physical robot model of the snake enables the device to ascend sandy slopes close to the angle of maximum slope stability,” the authors said in a study published this week in the journal Science.
Snakes can easily navigate a wide array of surfaces, so mimicking their tricks could help researchers develop robots capable of traveling through grass, gravel and sand — on Earth or elsewhere.
“If a robot gets stuck in the sand, that’s a problem — especially if that sand happens to be on another planet,” said Joe Mendelson, director of research at Zoo Atlanta, in a statement.
The National Science Foundation, Army Research Office and Army Research Laboratory funded the research, but these kind of robot advances may come in handy in private industry too.
Tesla CEO Elon Musk said just this week that he’d like his engineers to develop a snake-like, self-articulating charging cord that could plug into electric vehicles on its own.
Learn more in the video below:
This article originally appeared on Recode.net.