It's so easy to get jaded with the phrase "think out of the box". It's used liberally all around us in so many mainstream contexts. Taco Bell's "Think Outsde the Bun" campaign is but a trivial case in point.
Yet, this New York Times article on a promising new direction for robotics, is a great example on some true thinking out of the robotic box.
Titled "In the Lab: Robots that slink and squirm", it introduces a new type of robot to think about, the "soft-bodied robot":
"At Tufts University, a multidisciplinary team of researchers wants to take a softer approach. The Biomimetic Technologies for Soft-bodied Robots project is trying to make an ersatz caterpillar that will move around in pretty much the same way as the real thing.
The researchers see the potential to use the squishable, relatively simple creations to find land mines, repair machinery in hard-to-reach spots and even diagnose and treat diseases."
Mind you, we're a little bit away from actually seeing commercial versions of "soft-bodied robots".
Admit it. Part of the appeal of when any of us first played with a Slinky toy as a child, was that it seemed to somehow be "alive".
So I'm all for slinky, squirmy robots being developed to help make our lives better. As long as don't "come alive" and do us harm, as this tongue-in-cheek YouTube piece illustrates:
Almost as bad as traditional robots going all Terminator on us.
But seriously, the New York Times piece is a great mainstream introduction to the early baby steps (dare I say "baby slinks"?) this direction.