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Snake Robots Are World's Most Terrifying Search & Rescue Tool

Howie Choset has spent two decades at Carnegie Mellon designing some of the creepiest robots you've ever seen: snakes. The robotic snakes are constructed of segments, each with its own motor that controls its movements. Since so many distinct motors would be impossible for a human operator to control, Choset's team has developed algorithms that controls the robots movements. 

Larger robots, he says, will become a critical tool for rescuers in disaster situations like building collapses, where people may be trapped in rubble that's too fragile for humans to enter. A robot snake like these could move through the rubble, using cameras to bring real-time data to rescuers. 

The researchers are also working on medical robots so small and sensitive that they could be inserted into a tiny incision and maneuver through the body -- for instance to do diagnostic work from behind a patient's heart. Ordinarily, to get access to that area would require a very invasive surgery.