Miniaturization has a been a key goal in the technology sector since, well, the technology sector has existed. Most of the time, we think about that in terms of how small we can make transistors, and therefore processors, and therefore computers. But, that march towards miniaturization also extends robots—as demonstrated by the Harvard Ambulatory Microrobot.
HAMR is a tiny, but capable, robot that was inspired by cockroaches. As much as you probably hate the critters, you have to admit that they’re both quick and resilient. And, that’s been duplicated here with this robot from the Harvard John A. Paulson School of Engineering and Applied Sciences.
The little bot is only a few centimeters long, and weighs just grams. Yet, it’s capable of rapid and accurate movement. The breakthrough here is in miniaturization of both sensors and actuators, so it can operate like a traditional robot, but on a much smaller scale.
And, like a real bug, it can leap to many times its own height, and fall back down without damage. That’s due to the simple physics of a small mass, low density, and high surface area. The Harvard team envisions the technology being used for everything from search and rescue to infrastructure inspection, and at the very least it’s pushing the limit of how small functional robots can be.