Seeing a snake walk is a bit unnerving, even if you’re not one of the many people scared of them. But that’s exactly what happens when YouTuber Allen Pan builds a robotic lizard body for snakes. When the boa accepts its viral video fate and goes for a walk, it’s actually quite cute. Pan jokingly asserts the snake actually wants legs, but it’s likely just bewildered by the whole situation.
Pan has a few false starts with the project, thankfully using a stuffed animal snake to try out the prototypes. And even though I’m not afraid of snakes, the idea of one with spider legs is horrifying. The final design is much less creepy. It uses a series of programmable servos and a wireless controller that looks like a car key fob.
Pan references his previous video about trying to smuggle snakes through airport security in a hat and is sure to set up the experiment so the snake can opt out. That turns out to be relatively simple and it honestly does look like the snake chosen is perfectly happy to go for a walk. Or it could just be more misunderstood natural behavior, like sea snakes that “attack” by wrapping around people’s legs because they’re feeling amorous.
Pan visits a Petco to observe some lizards and get the leg movements just right. Scientists study this in order to make more adaptable wiggling robots for search and rescue operations or even on Mars. More reptilian robots are on the way as scientists also study snake locomotion. Like invasive brown tree snakes in Guam that make themselves into a lasso to raid bird nests. Or snakes that can glide from tree to tree. So expect to see some wild snake robots in the future!
Melissa is Nerdist’s science & technology staff writer. She also moderates “science of” panels at conventions and co-hosts Star Warsologies, a podcast about science and Star Wars. Follow her on Twitter @melissatruth.