Robot Spider Will Find You After a Disaster

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High-tech spider for hazardous missions

Fraunhofer IPA / / Press 2011

You've got to love biomimicry, especially when the critters that robots are modeled after are those that can really creep you out, like spiders. But this spider is not one you'll want to run away from -- in fact, it may just save your life.

Created by researchers at Germany's Frauenhofer Institute, the spider-like robot features a new way of moving that closely resembles the way that real-life spiders move. It has hydraulic bellows that move its legs, and four or more legs are on the ground at once to keep it stable.

Fauenhofer Institute reports, "As a real spider would, it keeps four legs on the ground at all times while the other four turn and ready themselves for the next step. Even in its appearance, this artificial articulate creature resembles an octopod. And no wonder – the natural specimen provided the model for researchers at the Fraunhofer Institute for Manufacturing Engineering and Automation IPA. This high-tech assistant is still a prototype, but future plans envision its use as an exploratory tool in environments that are too hazardous for humans, or too difficult to get to. After natural catastrophes and industrial or reactor accidents, or in fire department sorties, it can help responders, for instance by broadcasting live images or tracking down hazards or leaking gas."

The production process for these spiders involves 3D printing and a modular assembly, which allows it to be built with fewer materials and in less time. Plus, parts can be swapped out as needed in the field.

Once the movement of the robot is perfected, the body can be perfected for different scenarios, with specialized sensors for detecting various chemical leaks or radiation monitors, or perhaps sound sensors and video cameras for search and rescue missions.

Dvice writes, "Frauenhofer says that the robot can be reproduced cheaply using 3-D printers, not exactly what you want to hear if you're as petrified of spiders as I am."

True enough you might not be psyched to see a bunch of these critters scampering over a pile of debris, but if you know they're doing an important job, you might not mind so much.