The scourge of puppies, babies, and robotic vacuums is no longer a problem for robotic cockroaches. Researchers at UC Berkeley have taught this pair of VelociRoACHes
to cooperate and help each other tackle stairs using a tiny magnetic winch and old-fashioned teamwork.
Inspired by insects that have been known to work together to create living bridges and rafts
, the VelociRoACH-short for Velocity Robotic Autonomous Crawling Hexapod-is larger than your average bug, but still too small to effectively tackle stairs using its six short legs.
But working together, one VelociRoACH is able to give a boost to a second one in front of it, which uses its scrambling eggs to eventually clamber its way up a two-and-half-inch tall step. Once it’s safely on top, a miniature winch allows that VelociRoACH to drag its buddy up onto the step as well.
It’s not the most elegant solution, and half the time the robots end up falling, or flipped upside-down unable to right themselves. But since they’re engineered to be cheap and robust, a small army of these bots could be sent into a building that’s unsafe for humans to explore, guaranteeing that at least some of them would be successful at climbing stairs and exploring beyond the ground floor.
[UC Berkeley Biomimetic Millisystems Lab via IEEE Spectrum]