Print 15 comment(s) - last by BRB29.. on May 13 at 7:51 AM

Robot could be used to scout or send stranded climbers supplies

While it weighs just a little over a kilogram (~2.2 lb), the newly minted wall-climbing robot exhibits Spiderman-like strength, hauling a load of 7 kilograms (15.4 lb) up steep surfaces.  

Created by researchers at the Eidgenössische Technische Hochschule Zürich (ETH Zürich) -- known abroad as the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology -- the climber bucks the trend of past designs that used gecko-like high-surface-area attractions (via tiny synthetic hair-like setae) to stick to the wall.  Instead, the robot uses a unique tacky adhesive.

The adhesive is heated by resistors to melt, with a melting temperature of 70 degrees Celsius (158 degrees Fahrenheit).  Beyond that point it becomes a liquid, but remains tacky.  The tacky adhesive penetrates cracks and crevices, fixing the robot to the surface.  But when allowed to cool it recedes, freeing the robot foot to take another step.

The resulting climber has tremendous potential for use in mountain or mining rescue operations, either carrying imaging and audio equipment to hunt for lost hikers, or transporting supplies to hikers in difficult to reach areas.  Larger models with improved adhesives could eventually be used to haul down hikers off the cliff face, but even in its current form the bot has a lot of promise.

The robot could also see use hauling light materials in high rise construction, having been tested on wood, plastic, stone and aluminum.

Liyu Wang, one of the robot's designers, told New Scientist, "Our technology uses thermoplastic adhesives, which are much stronger than those used in gecko-type climbing systems.  We are thinking about using this to climb cliffs or other complex natural environments, which no previous climbing technologies can handle."

A paper on the bot was published last month in the peer-reviewed journal IEEE Transactions on Robotics.

Sources: IEEE Transactions on Robotics, New Scientist

Comments     Threshold

This article is over a month old, voting and posting comments is disabled

what about power?
By ironargonaut on 5/8/2013 7:52:37 PM , Rating: 2
That's cute and all but how much energy does it take to heat its foot from sticky to non-sticky? All the weight would be needed for batteries.
Did I see that right 5mins to take a step?

RE: what about power?
By Azethoth on 5/8/2013 8:44:35 PM , Rating: 1
Omg, this new proof of concept has no practical applications because it is limited!

RE: what about power?
By JKflipflop98 on 5/9/2013 1:48:52 AM , Rating: 2
I kind of agree with this. I can't think of any practical applications for this that wouldn't be better served by a quadrotor or something else.

RE: what about power?
By deksman2 on 5/9/2013 2:08:03 AM , Rating: 1
So... what, just because a couple of individuals online say they cannot think of 'practical uses' for this device means its not viable?

That seems rather arrogant, considering that you probably don't know everything there is to know, and very likely there are people out there with less knowledge who might be able to come up with practical uses.

As for energy required to heat up its undersides... is it really questionable?
It can be equipped with solar for one thing and wifi power transmission technology.
Furthermore if you replace cost efficient/inefficient materials in batteries with those made from graphene, synthetic diamonds and carbon nanotubes (and the same is done for solar and wifi power transfer), then energy will be the least of its issues.
Right now most of the inefficiencies are directly traced to artificial 'costs', not the actual technology or resources.

RE: what about power?
By HostileEffect on 5/9/2013 3:10:35 AM , Rating: 2
I can barely get a cell signal in the Bridgeport mountains in California, IF, I'm on the right hillside with a clear LoS to lower base camp. And this little robot is supposed to get a magic wifi signal on a mountain side. *rolls eyes*. Right.

If someone is so high up on a mountain that a bird can't reach them and roads don't go, then its time to break out a mule team and start hiking. A mule isn't expensive, its expendable, and every step it takes is one less step you have to take with gear and supplies. Should it make the trip up alive, it can carry casualties down, be eaten along the way, etc. Use a donkey, a goat, any load bearer.

Then again, I'm tired, I get up at 3:20AM and that is the two cents from some no body who took a two week animal packers course in some mountains just short of civilization.

If this is a mine, ruble, insert whatever, well, I got nothin for ya and I'm out of neurons for the night.

RE: what about power?
By deksman2 on 5/9/2013 4:44:17 AM , Rating: 2
I wasn't referring to regular wifi...
I was referring to wifi-power transfer.
As for not getting any signals NOW... that's because we use outdated technology, methods of production and inefficient materials.
We already had numerous options for decades to create far superior wifi receivers/transmitters (for both data and energy transfer) such as using synthetic materials with far superior properties that we have the ability to generate in abundance.
The reason you aren't seeing this in the market is because its deemed 'cost prohibitive' (Which has nothing to do with our technological capability of producing superior and far more durable technology sustainably and in abundance).
Cost efficiency = technological inefficiency (because it uses 'cheap' and inefficient materials, outdated methods of production and cuts corners by designing things intentionally to be inferior for the purpose of 'saving costs'.
Its an artificial restriction which we impose on ourselves because we still use a monetary based system (that's incidentally eating itself out of existence as we speak).

RE: what about power?
By amelia321 on 5/9/13, Rating: -1
RE: what about power?
By HostileEffect on 5/10/2013 2:23:22 AM , Rating: 2
Very few people do things by "for the good of all mankind", Star Trek-ish system. I personally want to get into a college or university and get into a computer related field and even though my reasons go beyond money, I still need to be paid for my efforts when I get a better job than the one I have now.

Yes, we have some pretty ridiculous and promising technologies but if its too expensive then it won't sell and you go out of business. If your going to bring up the old government / society feeds, houses, and provides for someone based on what someone else or society thinks the job is worth, well, that simply doesn't fly in reality. Unless you re-engineer humans to behave even more like cattle then it simply won't work by human nature. I know you didn't bring this up but you mentioned that we are sill using a monetary based system and I decided to throw it out there. A monetary system without the backing of physical assets does suck indeed.

The best tech can still be had if you want to pay for it, its just not mass produced because the market isn't there. In a hypothetical future, even if one of these rescue bots was made and worked great, it would cost a nice sum. I would very likely risk my health going up a mountain or into a hazardous environment for even a fraction of this bots cost and it is likely other able bodies will be hired for these kinds of jobs before more expensive robots are bought, but thats just my thinking.

If I make no sense its because I'm dead tired again, woke up at 0330, going to bed now at 2022.

RE: what about power?
By BRB29 on 5/13/2013 7:51:42 AM , Rating: 2
If you missed the point of the this research then here it is

1. Proof of concept that it works
2. The technology is there and available

Problems making it work for its purpose

1. Cost
2. Still not mature enough

What is needed for it to work and have widespread adoption

1. More research and development
2. Parts to manufacture are economical
3. Someone to come along and absorb that R&D cost. That someone will not come along if it they don't see a profitable future.
3b. Government funding

RE: what about power?
By DennisB on 5/9/2013 7:09:43 AM , Rating: 2
They say it uses thermoelectric effect to heat and cool which means part of the energy is retrieved. Probably not that much but will certainly increase operation endurance.

Anyway, more importantly is how long it takes to reach people. Whether it's people trapped on a mountain or inside a flooded cave they need help within 24 hours or it's unlikely to find them alive. Especially if they are injured or less prepared for the situation. Also the supply delivered has to last two times the amount of time the robot needs to get there for a runabout.

Well, it's good for first response before a rescue team has been assembled or when there's no helicopter around for days.

It may also be better to serve as accompanying "mule" that carries important loads or lessens them. If anything other than an avalanche happens the robot could provide immediate support. Perhaps using wifi as a beacon (for following) on the people so there would be no need for them to be conscious and "call" it. This saves time to reach them. It could also serve as RF relay station for calling or as beacon for search/rescue teams.

Wet Surfaces?
By praeses on 5/9/2013 4:41:02 AM , Rating: 2
I wonder how well it will handle wet vertical surfaces, or with plant matter on them. Sticky is one thing, but it would make more sense if they could make it grip like a hand as well.

RE: Wet Surfaces?
By deksman2 on 5/9/2013 4:47:28 AM , Rating: 2
Hands are not necessarily too reliable on such vertical surfaces.

Stickiness is ok for most such terrains and plant life shouldn't really interfere with it.

Although I would sooner prefer a metamaterial that automatically changes/adapts to the surface it's on, eliminating artificially induced stickiness through power generation.

RE: Wet Surfaces?
By daboom06 on 5/9/2013 8:58:43 AM , Rating: 2
yea, if it works anything like those sticky hand rubber bands, it's gunna get hairy and gross pretty quick.

RE: Wet Surfaces?
By Souka on 5/9/2013 1:58:54 PM , Rating: 2
so if it tries to climb a dirty surface... as the article said it would do... this design won't work.

Also.. it said 5min, but from the video I see it moving a setup will under 30 seconds.

Energy requirements will always require this to be tethered to a power source.

cute idea...

By chromal on 5/10/2013 10:33:26 AM , Rating: 2
While its usefulness may still be established, it's not as if we can unleash a robot that coats our national park rock formations with glue. If it leaves any residue as it climbs, the idea is stillborn for operation in our national, state, and local parks and forests.

"DailyTech is the best kept secret on the Internet." -- Larry Barber

Latest Headlines

Most Popular ArticlesAre you ready for this ? HyperDrive Aircraft
September 24, 2016, 9:29 AM
Leaked – Samsung S8 is a Dream and a Dream 2
September 25, 2016, 8:00 AM
Yahoo Hacked - Change Your Passwords and Security Info ASAP!
September 23, 2016, 5:45 AM
A is for Apples
September 23, 2016, 5:32 AM
Walmart may get "Robot Shopping Carts?"
September 17, 2016, 6:01 AM

Copyright 2016 DailyTech LLC. - RSS Feed | Advertise | About Us | Ethics | FAQ | Terms, Conditions & Privacy Information | Kristopher Kubicki