In a hallway of an engineering building at Stanford University, some devilish researchers have built a sprawling obstacle course. To make it through, competitors have to wind over sand, through a door, up some steps, and finally, through a forest of small pillars. Sounds like the Rube Goldbergian machinations of an grad student with too much time and Red Bull on their hands, but no: This is a robot training ground.
See, a tracked robot might be able to navigate the sand and the steps, but good luck in the forest. A wheeled automaton could well get stuck in the sand. Amateurs, says vinebot. Air pumps into a flexible plastic tube, slowly extending it over the sand as an operator steers it through the door and over the steps and between the pillars. Obstacles bested.
You may have seen vinebot snaking around last summer, but now it’s better than ever.