DARPA’s wheel switches shapes with terrain!

Designed as a collaborative project between Carnegie Mellon University’s National Robotics Engineering Center and DARPA researchers, the Reconfigurable Wheel Track, dubbed the RWT, helps vehicles move on any sort of terrain… and it does so in spectacular fashion, by shapeshifting to turn from a rotary wheel to a track system.

On much harder terrain, the RWT works like a regular wheel, rotating to help move the vehicle from point A to B, but the minute it reaches terrain that’s softer, like mud, silt, snow, or sand, the RWT shapeshifts (within as quick as 2 seconds) to a triangular format, and the rubber grip around the tire runs like a conveyor track you’d see on tanks. The wheel ultimately allows vehicles to move around effectively, regardless of the terrain type or the weather, and will see itself being used on vehicles for defense purposes.

And while the GIF below definitely makes me go “whoa”, my favorite wheel reinvention will probably still be NASA’s incredibly light and versatile chain-link wheel.

Designers: DARPA & Carnegie Mellon University NREU