Precision. Strength. Balance. Versatility.
Robots are getting scary, people. Big Dog can throw cinder blocks. SandFlea can jump 30 feet into the air. And bots called micro scallops can, as an article on IEEE put it, “swim through your eyeballs.”
What better way to bring in the end of summer than by freaking ourselves out by all the insane technology out there? Let’s do this. Here is a list of some of the coolest robots in existence.
The SandFlea is a measly eleven pounds, but it packs a punch. When encountering an obstacle, the SandFlea can jump up to 30 feet in the air to avoid it. Its four wheels move it across the ground, and a piston propels it over any hurdles it discovers. In addition, this robot stays stable while in the air, guaranteeing a safe landing and a steady view from its camera while airborne. It’s a good thing this robot isn’t quiet, or it would be quite the stealth device.
Weighing in at 80 milligrams and having the size of a quarter, the RoboBee is a tiny robot that flies using “artificial muscles.” Developed by the Wyss Institute, Harvard’s School of Engineering and Applied Sciences and Northeastern University, the RoboBee is intended to be “capable of self-contained, self-directed flight and of achieving coordinated behavior in large groups.” According to the Wyss Institute’s website, possible applications of the RoboBee include crop pollination, search and rescue missions, surveillance, weather and climate mapping, traffic monitoring and environmental monitoring.
Possibly the scariest robot on this list, the micro-scallop is tiny, driven by magnetic fields to traverse bodily fluids. Due to the differences in bodily fluids and water, these simple robots were designed to “swim” by folding themselves back and forth to propel forward. The fact that this machine is so simple allows it to be made extremely small, in the range of hundreds of micrometers.
According to the Max Planck Institute, who developed them, “They could deliver drugs precisely to a target location, a point on the retina for instance. And they could make it possible to carry out gene therapy in a specific cell.” Yikes! Micro-scallops are quite science-fictions.
This guy sounds kind of cute, but I promise you, he is far from it. Petman is like a real-life Ironman, and was developed by Boston Dynamics to test chemical protection clothing. This robot has the body of a man and can balance himself, walking freely on two legs. Petman replicates what a human might feel under protective clothing by monitoring temperature, humidity and sweat. Providing these types of life-like conditions allows people to test how clothing holds up to chemical warfare agents. Nope, not cute; Petman is industrial-strength and hardcore.
I bet you can’t predict what this robot can do. Yep, you guessed it, the Cheetah can run really fast. The quickest robot in the world, this guy clocks speeds greater than 29 miles per hour. Although it isn’t as speedy as its animal namesake, it’s pretty darn swift. It has four legs with forward-facing joints, like human knees. Here is a video of it running at its top speed, where the Cheetah is running on a conveyor belt.
This six-legged wonder can climb walls. It has what Boston Dynamics calls “micro-claws,” which grip and conform to various surfaces, allowing the RiSE to scale not only walls, but textured surfaces such as trees and fences as well. It has a tail that helps with balance, making it look sort of like a fat lizard.
Although it has been dubbed “self-healing,” this robot doesn’t quite do that. What it does do, however, is almost more impressive. When one of its six legs becomes disabled for some reason, it discovers that its trajectory is incorrect. Through trial and error, the robot figures out which leg is damaged and eventually learns how to walk with just five legs. Even though the robot can’t feel pain, it mimics the human behavior of self-adjusting for an injury.
Spot is a robot dog that was released earlier this year by Boston Dynamics. Spot is a smaller version of their previous dog bot, Big Dog, who was so strong and agile he could throw cinder blocks.
Spot is a lot cooler. He trots along on almost any terrain. He has the ability to trek through the woods and climb stairs. At one point in the video, his “trainer” tries to kick him over. And it’s not just any kick – the guy rams Spot in the side while Spot is walking innocently along. Spot stumbles…and keeps his balance. At another point in the video, two Spot bots are trotting side by side. When they accidentally bump into each other, each adjusts course to keep its balance. Amazing!
One caveat, though: there is an amazing gif on the internet of Spot trotting around the corner of a staircase in a house. There is a pile of banana peels in front of the stairs, and Spot’s foot lands right on it. He slips faster than a cartoon character, slams into the floor and lies there, unmoving. Oh, technology.