Tuesday, 29 September 2015

{SCIENCE} Realistic cockroach robot developed by Russian university

Robots come in all shapes and sizes these days, and in the case of one project in Russia, the shape and size is that of a cockroach. Researchers at the Immanuel Kant Baltic Federal University in Kaliningrad have announced the creation of a tiny cockroach robot that actually looks like a cockroach. Making your expensive little robot something that people will almost instinctively try to kill is maybe not the best idea, but it sure looks neat.

The team, led by Aleksey Belousov, was challenged to develop a robot that looked like a cockroach, mimicked its movements, and was the same size as a roach. It was a problem to satisfy all three requirements, but they eventually succeeded by using Blaberus craniifer, the death’s head cockroach as inspiration. This creature is fairly large at up to three inches, giving the engineers plenty of volume to work with.

Many of the robot’s components were developed from scratch. While there are companies that sell small machinery that could be used in the robot, most of it was prohibitively expensive. For instance, the gears for the roachbot’s legs could have been purchased for $9,000 from an Austrian company, but the total budget for the project was just $22,500.

The finished robot is 10cm long (just a little larger than a real death’s head cockroach) and can move at 30cm per second. So, it can do that freaky thing where you flip the light switch on and it zips across the floor like a real roach. It only works for 20 minutes without a recharge, though. The stated goal of the project was to create a robot that could search for accident victims trapped under debris, but the team is also working on a camouflaged version for the Russian military.

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