A group of researchers from Stanford University have created a team of six tiny robots that use the science of biomimicry to work together in order to pull a car that is a thousand times their own weight.
Ants work as a team and they are able to lift objects that are much heavier than their tiny bodies. With this concept in mind, the researchers at Stanford’s Biomimetics and Dextrous Manipulation Laboratory applied this example to robotics, creating 6 tiny robots that can work as a team to pull a car that weighs 3,900 pounds.
These amazing robots, called microTug robots or uTug, are each about the size of a cockroach and weight about 0.2 pounds.
David Christensen, a graduate student from the BDML lab said that taking into consideration the dynamics of being a team, not just an individual, they were able to create a team of their “microTug” robots that, like ants, are strong as an individual, but also work together as a team.
He added that the demonstration, which used his car along with him inside of it, is the functional equivalent of six people trying to move the Eiffel Tower and three Statues of Liberty.
The creation of these strong tiny robots is not all thanks to the idea of working as a team, but they are also being developed to take advantage of the science of biomimicry to duplicate attributes from the animal kingdom. The bots were designed to imitate gecko lizards by incorporating spiked, sticky pads that the uTug robots use to grip a surface.
This approach had been used once before to create smaller robots capable of pulling objects 2,000 times their weight. Additionally, the results of the demonstration are similar to that of the Autonomous Multi-Robot System for Vehicle Extraction and Transportation or AVERT, a group of larger robots that can also pull a 2-ton car.
Christensen, along with graduate student Srinivasen Suresh, researcher Katie Hahm and professor of mechanical engineering Mark Cutosky published a paper about their car-towing research one month ago on the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers’ website, under the title Let’s All Pull Together: Principles for Sharing Large Loads in Microrobot Teams.
This paper will be presented at the International Conference on Robotics and Automation in Stockholm this May.
Make sure to check out the video down below where you’ll be able to see how these tiny robots learned the meaning of teamwork.