'MicroTug' robots team up to pull 1,800-kilogram car
A 'microTug,' designed by scientists at Stanford. (YouTube/bdmlstanford)
Emily Chan, CTVNews.ca
Published Monday, March 14, 2016 2:15PM EDT
Stanford scientists have designed a team of six small robots capable of tugging objects more than 2,000 times their own weight.
The lab behind the invention showed off the machine's strength and coordination in a recent video, which was posted online on Sunday.
In the clip, the robots work together to slowly pull a 1,800-kilogram car across a polished concrete floor.
Researchers at Stanford's Biometrics and Dexterous Manipulation Labratory say they drew inspiration from nature when designing the small, but mighty robots.
Using a special adhesive similar to the sticky material found on geckos' toes, the scientists developed small, light-weight robots that could pull heavy objects independently.
But the researchers wanted to take the robots one step further, and see if the machines could work together to carry even larger loads, similar to the same way that ants use teamwork to transport heavy objects.
To achieve this, the researchers experimented with the way robots apply force to move themselves and their cargo.
They found that robots that move by applying overlapping forces over a longer period of time, rather than moving with fast, jerky jolts of strong force, are better able to work together.
"Although the forces individually aren't very strong, they overlap with each other more easily so teamwork is better," the video narrator says.
After a series of experiments, the researchers found that the most effective robots used a system of wheels to pull weight using a "very long, very slow, very steady, winching gait."
The result is a set of "microTug" robots, each weighing only 100 grams, that are able to work together to move an unmodified car and driver.