Watch These Six Tiny, Adorable Robots Pull a Chevy Volt
They’re like robots from Krypton, but they’re actually from Stanford.
Humanity has taken another step towards creating the agents of their own extinction thanks to the brilliant minds at Stanford University. A group of researchers has created palm-sized robots so strong it only takes six of them to pull nearly two tons' worth of Chevrolet Volt across a polished concrete floor.
The µTug Microrobots, as their creators at Stanford's Biomimetic Dexterous Manipulation Laboratory call them, each weigh about 17g—about as much as a handful of M&Ms. But like those kids on Captain Planet, with their powers combined, they're capable of far more than they can do on their own.
The secret lies in the first part of their birth lab's name: biomimicry. Taking their cue from ants, who generate immense power by moving three of their six legs in unison, researchers developed a way for the microbots to synchronize the efforts of their teeny, tiny legs to maximize their strength. Combine that with their gecko-inspired adhesive feet and these six bots can move 3,900 pounds of car. Proportionally speaking, that's the equivalent of six 200-lb people pulling about 18 Amtrak Acela Express trains hitched end-to-end.
The robots don't go about it quickly, mind you—the researchers had to speed the video up 20 times in order to show something approximating rapid motion—but by God those six tiny robots pulled that car a lot farther than any six of us here at The Drive could move a bullet train. This is the point where we'd put that meme of Bender saying, "Whelp, we're boned," if, y'know, it weren't counterintuitive to have a robot say that right now.