Like the salamander robot you may remember from previous interviews with Auke Ijspeert (including an earlier Talking Robots interview), this robot's morphology and locomotion pattern are modeled after that of a real lizard. However, while previous research for movement in water or air could rely on detailed dynamic models, no such models exist for sand which can behave as both, a solid and a fluid.
The current prototype of the robot uses an oscillation pattern gleaned from the real lizard to efficiently move through a container filled with plastic spheres 6 millimetres across. The researchers are now refining their robot by adding more jointed segments to allow for a smoother body movement. Eventually, lizard like robots could help find people trapped in the loose debris resulting from an earthquake.