Watch This Amphibious Robot Squid Wiggle Across Land, Ice, and Water

Say hello to Velox, a mollusk-shaped robot that can walk, swim, and ice skate. Pliant Energy Systems (PES), the engineering company that created this amphibious bot, took inspiration from across the animal kingdom to make Velox “swim like a ray, crawl like a millipede, jet like a squid, and slide like a snake.” The result is the extremely versatile, squiggly — and fast! — robot seen in the video above.

Before the December 1st announcement, Velox had only been demonstrated using its two sets of fins to swim. This latest round of upgrades opens up the possibility for a variety of use-cases including water and ice rescues, amphibious resupply missions, stealthy animal observation in any terrain. Its technology could even be used to create a safer alternative to boat propellers in environmentally-sensitive areas like coral reefs. By adopting a blueprint from mother nature, PES was able to create an adaptable robot that doesn’t completely disturb the environment it operates in.

Pliant Energy Systems robot
1. Velox deploys away from shore and navigates autonomously below surface or via acoustic modem link to surface craft. 2. Velox swims at or just below surface. Live video feed and/or data to surface craft, aerial drone or satellite for real-time control. 3. Velox transitions seamlessly to land-phase of mission. Live video feed and/or data to surface craft, aerial drone or satellite for real-time control.

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Velox is flanked by two wavy, flexible fins that are powered by eight actuators (the technical term for ‘things that make robots move.’). When it’s in water the underlying mechanisms enable the fins to gently flow with the current, allowing it to quickly and accurately maneuver itself. On land, the appendages stiffen, letting Velox prop itself up when it’s skating on ice or cut through fresh powder. An onboard CPU determines how to manage power distribution depending on its environment.

While Velox has undergone major updates since its 2017 debut, PES is still treating the machine as a proof-of-concept product. New Atlas reports that CEO Pietro Filardo admits that the robot’s design shows great potential but isn’t quite ready for deployment.

With a few tweaks Velox could soon ferry supplies to remote islands or communities or assist scientists with unobtrusive research of endangered species.

Even further down the line, robots like this could prove to be the lifesaver of the future.

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