Machine Design

A mechanical helping hand

A prototype caterpillarlike robot with a gripper arm aims to make life a little easier for those in wheelchairs.

Via interconnected portals, the robot crawls along walls and ceilings performing semicomplicated tasks such as preparing and cooking food, washing and drying dishes, vacuuming floors, and even shaving its owner's face. The U.K.-developed Flexibot has a four-pronged gripper at each end that is both a manipulator and an electric plug. The arm automatically adjusts its length and moves along by stretching a free end from wall socket to socket, plugging itself in before pulling its other end out of the wall.

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