Robotic cockroach invented that can’t be squashed under your foot
UC Berkeley

Robotic cockroach invented that can’t be squashed under your foot

The worst thing just happened in the entire world

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Researchers have designed a robot that has a soft body, runs fast, and is about the size of a cockroach — but can't be stepped on and stopped. The new robot comes courtesy of researchers, a prototype that was able to reach a maximum relative speed of 20 BL/s — or body lengths per second.

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The area of robotics is growing fast, with mechanical creatures that can emulate cheetahs, snakes and even a dog. Science often turns to nature for ideas in how a robot can move, eyeing winged insects to figure out how to make a robot fly, or arachnids for robots that can walk on legs like a spider.

This robot has some eerie similarities to

Small robots also have their place, with the ability to reach into small areas, even potentially hide in corners, and not be seen.

Researchers here make no effort to hide their particular interest in roaches — which despite people thinking are close to the beetle, actually belong to the same order of insects as termites.

The inventors, based out of the University of California at Berkeley, and both Tsinghua University and Beihang University in China, wanted to develop a robot that was robust and looked to the common roach for inspiration.

"For example, a cockroach can withstand a load 900 times its own body weight without injury because of its soft and shape-changing exoskeleton," they wrote in their study, "Insect-scale fast moving and ultra robust soft robot, published in Science Robotics.

Charts and graphs of a robot's size, speed and designThe inspiration of a new robot design comes from the body of a cockroachScience Robotics

The robotic prototype was able to handle a 100g of weight on top of it —1,500 times its own body weight — and after being stepped on by a person, weighing 59.5 kg, still scurried away, albeit at just half its original speed.

Even more exciting, on the robotics side, is the fact that the robot can work on an energy supply as low as 8 V. And yes, researchers are particularly excited about the fact that this insect-sized robot can't be stopped by just stepping on top of it.

"The working mechanism and structure of the robots presented here also show exceptional robustness in weight-bearing, slope-climbing, and load-carrying performances," researchers wrote.

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