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Snakebot Visits Tonight Show

robotics / undergraduate research

One of Carnegie Mellon University Robotics Professor Howie Choset's famous snake-like robots crawled up the even more famous leg of comedian Jimmy Fallon during an April 25 appearance on NBC's "The Tonight Show with Jimmy Fallon."

"Slow down there, mister!" Fallon exclaimed as the robot reached his knee, much to the delight of the studio audience. The robot swung its head, which contains a video camera, and peered up at the host, as the view of Fallon's face was shared with the nationwide audience.

Matt Travers, systems scientist in the Robotics Institute and co-director with Choset of the Biorobotics Lab, controlled the snakebot from off-stage.

Choset and the snakebot were joined on stage by Hanson Robotics' human-like Sophia robot and Festo AG's eMotion butterfly robots during the segment, the first of a recurring feature on the program called Tonight Showbotics.

Fallon expressed surprise at the strength of the delicate-looking robot and the pressure he felt as the device wrapped itself around his leg.

"We can do it a little harder, if you like," Choset said.

"Oh no, please don't!" Fallon replied.

Choset explained how the unique architecture of the snake robot enables it to go places other robots can't — creeping through rubble, pipes and small spaces and climbing up poles, pipes and even legs. It has applications in urban search and rescue, nuclear power plant inspection and, in miniaturized form, in surgery, he added.

Sophia followed snakebot's appearance, telling a joke to Fallon and challenging him to a game of "robot rock, paper, scissors." The eMotion butterflies closed the segment, with Fallon launching one of the lightweight robots over the audience, where it was joined by three additional butterfly robots.

Choset's research has long focused on snake robots, but more recently has branched into modular robots, in which modular pieces can be readily assembled into a variety of forms. Choset also is chief technology officer of the newly formed $250 million Advanced Robotics for Manufacturing Institute.