accordion-jointed robots

From about the late fifties to the late sixties, there seems to have been a “fad” for robots both real and fictional to have flexible arms and/or legs rather than rigid limbs with joints. I presume that it started when motorized flexible “tentacle” robot limbs were developed in real life. But except as a cliche, you hardly ever see them anymore. So what happened? Was this the same sort of flash in the pan as jet packs and moving sidewalks?

Futurama featured many robots that had them, including one of the main characters, Bender.

Better costumes, higher budgets. We either no longer need to hide actors’ joints because our robots can be depicted with CGI, or we design more realistic looking joints and hire actors that can fit the constume, or make the robots not humanoid at all.

The ideal would still be flexible arms and/or legs. Back then, it was to accommodate the actors inside the suits. Nowadays, it reflects the current state of the art. An ideal robot wouldn’t be limited to such a limited number of joints, though, it would have completely fluid appendages. Actually, this is almost state of the art. I imagine that true “idea” would be Terminator 2 style articulation at the molecular level.

Think of flexible articulation as kind of being like those wooden snakes you buy at amusement parks or safaris or zoos, except each joint’s not limited to a single degree of motion. It’s hard to do with the current size/weight ratio of available actuators, but it’s coming along. Of course to me the most value is in industrial applications. For making robots that represent humans, there’s not really much of a purpose for this type of articulation.

Accordion style boots are still used on your car’s suspension. They are also used in industrial “real world” robotic applications to protect lead screws from things that might jam them up.

I’m just waiting for someone to say “Ah, a 1950’s style accordion-jointed robot.”

Ah, a 1950’s style accordion-jointed robot.

Happy now?

Yes. Thanks Rick.