Watch Micro Robots Work Together to Pull a 3900-lb Car
Teamwork makes the dream work, and for these six microrobots developed by the team at the Biomimetics and Dexterous Manipulation Laboratory at Stanford University, the dream was to pull a car and driver that weighed 18,000 times their collective weight. According to graduate student David Christensen, a co-author of the research paper about the experiment, that would be like six humans pulling the Eiffel Tower and three Statues of Liberty.
Inspired by the way ants work together to move objects much larger and heavier than themselves, the researchers studied the movements of various types of micro bots. The video (above) explains that the quick “jerking jolts” of some robots would not work, because there would not be enough of a synchronized effort between the bots to pull such a heavy object. Instead, the six MicroTugs from the experiment used a slower running gait and an adhesive that operates like the feet of a gecko, paired with pulley systems, to better coordinate their attempt. With the gecko-like adhesive providing traction, the little workers used the pulleys to slowly drag the 3900-pound vehicle forward. The robots then inched ahead, repeating the process until the car crossed the finish line (the feat is shown at 20 times its actual speed in the clip above).
The New York Times reports that a paper describing the experiment will be presented at the International Conference on Robotics and Automation in Stockholm this May. In the meantime, watch the video to learn more about what the Stanford researchers accomplished.
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