Six microbots manage to do the extraordinary feat of pulling a car that weighs 3,900 pounds, showing the world that teamwork goes a long way down the road.
Attributing the success to biomimicry, the researchers at Stanford's Biomimetics and Dexterous Manipulation Laboratory developed what they call microTug or uTug robots. Even though they are similar to ants in the sense of working together, they are more or less the size of a cockroach, weighing about 0.2 pounds in total.
Each microbot sports gecko-inspired sticky feet, allowing it to pull heavy loads over a hundred times its weight and walk on walls, which was illustrated in earlier experiments. This time, the achievements have been taken up a notch because of a combined effort by the microbots.
One of the people behind the creation, David Christensen remarks that the demonstration is the functional equivalent of six persons attempting to move the Eiffel Tower and three Statues of Liberty.
"By considering the dynamics of the team, not just the individual, we are able to build a team of our 'microTug' robots that, like ants, are superstrong individually, but then also work together as a team," Christensen tells the New York Times.
While they can't exactly move or pull the car that fast, they do get the job done.
It should also be noted that the accomplishment is similar to that of the Autonomous Multi-Robot System for Vehicle Extraction and Transportation or AVERT, a group of relatively larger robots that can also pull a 2-ton car.
Christensen along with graduate student Srinivasan Suresh, researcher Katie Hahm and a professor of mechanical engineering Mark Cutkosky published their findings titled "Let's All Pull Together: Principles for Sharing Large Loads in Microrobot Teams" on the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers website a month ago.
The paper is scheduled to be presented at the International Conference on Robotics and Automation in Stockholm sometime in May.
Watch the video "Let's all Pull Together: Team of uTug Microrobots Pulls a Car" below to see the six tiny robots tow a 3,900-pound car slowly but surely.