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Modeled After Ants, Teams of Tiny Robots Can Move 2-Ton Car

Archimedes pointed out that with a lever he could move the world.


He most likely would have been surprised to learn that a team of six microrobots, weighing just 3.5 ounces in total, could pull a car weighing 3,900 pounds.


A group of researchers at the Biomimetics and Dexterous Manipulation Laboratory at Stanford University has been exploring the limits of friction in the design of tiny robots that have the ability to pull thousands of times their weight, wander like gecko lizards on vertical surfaces or mimic bats.

斯坦福大学,一组来自仿生材料学和机巧操控实验室(Biomimetics and Dexterous Manipulation Laboratory)的研究专家正在设计可以承担起几千倍自身重量的微型机器人,这些机器人可以像在垂直的平面上爬行的壁虎或者蝙蝠一样行动。在此过程中,专家们一直在致力研究摩擦系数的极限。

Now they have pushed biomimicry in a new direction. They have taken their inspiration from tiny ants that work as teams to move massive objects. In this case, they are not just taking ideas from nature — the movie “Big Hero 6” made a great deal of what swarms of microrobots could do, including tossing cars.

这项研究将仿生学引入了全新的研究方向。研究者们的灵感来自于可以搬运巨大物体的团结的蚂蚁们。在这个情况下,研究者不仅只是从大自然中获取到灵感——电影《超能陆战队》讲了很多关于一群微型机器人可以做的事情,包括将一辆汽车翻个底朝天。<纽约时报中英文网 http://www.qqenglish.com/>

The researchers’ approach is counterintuitive. Rather than striking powerful blows like a football player making a tackle or a jackhammer, they have focused on synchronizing the smooth application of very tiny forces. The microrobots work in concert, if slowly.


The researchers observed that the ants get great cooperative force by each using three of their six legs simultaneously.


“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,” said David Christensen, a graduate student who is one of the authors of a research paper describing the feat. The paper will be presented this May at the International Conference on Robotics and Automation in Stockholm.<纽约时报中英文网 http://www.qqenglish.com/>

大卫·克里斯坦森(David Christensen),研究生,同时也是陈述这篇研究的论文作者之一,讲到:“通过考虑团队的多样性,而不仅仅是团队的个体,我们得以创造一队我们自己的‘微型搬运工’机器人。它们就像蚂蚁,每个个体都是十分强壮的,但是它们可以像一个团队在一起工作。”今年五月这篇研究论文将发表在在斯德歌尔摩的机器人及自动控制学国际大会(International Conference on Robotics and Automation)上。

Their new demonstration is the functional equivalent of a team of six humans moving a weight equivalent to that of an Eiffel Tower and three Statues of Liberty, Mr. Christensen said. The car is the one he uses for commuting to campus. Part of the magic is the use of a special adhesive that was inspired by gecko toes.


Last month, Mr. Christensen and Srinivasan Suresh, another graduate student, the researcher Katie Hahm and the mechanical engineering professor Mark Cutkosky published “Let’s All Pull Together: Principles for Sharing Large Loads in Microrobot Teams.”

上个月,克里斯坦森先生和另一名研究生斯里尼瓦桑·苏雷石(Srinivasan Suresh),研究员卡蒂·哈姆(Katie Hahm)以及机械工程学教授马克·库特克斯基(Mark Cutkosky)共同发表了名为《让我们齐心协力:微型机器人团队承重巨型装载的原理》的研究论文。

In an accompanying video, they show that the microrobots, when they are carefully synchronized, can do astounding things.




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