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You need to see six tiny robotic ants pull a car

Stanford university is making robot versions of ants that work together to pull objects thousands of times heavier.

A YouTube video shows the MicroTug microrobots pulling a 1.8-tonne car and driver, which is a remarkable feat when each robot weighs just 17 grams. That’s the equivalent of six humans carrying the Eiffel Tower and three Statues of Liberty.

It may seem unbelievable, but each robot ant can pull more than 2,000 time its weight, thanks to a combination of special adhesive feet – inspired by gecko toes that stick the MicroTug to the floor – and a winch.

That and the synchonising each robot’s (incredibly slow) movement allows a team of microrobots to use strength in numbers to pull very heavy objects like the Chevrolet Volt in the video.

Okay, technically the robo ants only pull the car, not lift it, which means they are only pulling around 270 times their own weight in rolling resistance. But that’s still way more than you could lift.

The MicroTug microrobots are the work of graduate student David Christensen and the team at the Biometrics and Dexterous Manipulation Laboratory, which have been investigating the limits of friction as part of a forthcoming report due out in May, 2016.

“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 super strong individually, but then also work together as a team,” Christensen told the New York Times.

We, for one, welcome our tiny robot ant overlords.

Video: Let’s all pull together: Team of Microrobots pulls a car


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