Artificial Intelligence: This Tiny Robotic Crab Measures Just Half A Millimeter Wide

The tiny, adorable crab can bend, twist, crawl, walk, turn and even jump.

Engineers at Northwestern University (NWU) have developed a remote-controlled, crab-shaped walking robot claimed to be the smallest such device ever made. This technology is still in its early stages, but opens up the possibility of these mite-sized robotic crabs being deployed to execute tasks in small, cramped spaces that are difficult to access by humans. (Northwestern)

A robotic crab smaller than a flea

The NWU engineers fabricated the robotic crabs from a shape-memory alloy material that transforms to its “remembered” shape when heated. The elastic resilience of this body obviated the need for complex hardware, hydraulics or electricity – instead a scanned laser beam rapidly heats the robot at various points on its body, causing a deformation. A thin coating of glass returns the part to its original, remembered shape.

Locomotion is created by the rapid interchange between the deformed and remembered shapes.

The laser is used to activate the tiny robotic crabs as well as guide their direction.

This robotic crab could save human lives

“Robotics is an exciting field of research, and the development of microscale robots is a fun topic for academic exploration,” said John A. Rogers, who led the project. “You might imagine micro-robots as agents to repair or assemble small structures or machines in industry or as surgical assistants to clear clogged arteries, to stop internal bleeding or to eliminate cancerous tumors — all in minimally invasive procedures.”

Rogers is the Louis Simpson and Kimberly Querrey Professor of Materials Science and Engineering, Biomedical Engineering and Neurological Surgery at Northwestern’s McCormick School of Engineering and Feinberg School of Medicine and the director of the Querrey Simpson Institute for Bioelectronics (QSIB). He is known to be a pioneer in bioelectronics.

Related Story: A New Breed of Burglars – Small AI-Powered Robots

Image credit: NorthWestern University

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