New nightmare fuel just dropped. Meet Magnecko — yes, that's seriously its name — a four-legged and absolutely terrifying new robot that can clamber up walls and across ceilings with the help of its magnetic clodhoppers.
Created by a team of eight engineering students at the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology (ETH) in Zürich, the bot, per New Atlas, is designed to help industrial workers and engineers perform inspections and repairs on tall metal structures. It's dangerous and often impossible for humans to shimmy up and into these spaces, and as New Atlas notes, although aerial drones can offer some assistance, their limited battery life often hampers their usefulness. According to its creators, Magnecko solves these problems — as long as a structure is magnetic, that is.
"Industrial and maritime environments need to be inspected regularly. Although there are many solutions for remote visual inspections, they often fail in confined and narrow spaces," reads the project's website. "Our robot magnecko is designed to address these constraints."
Judging by the project's site, it seems that the name Magnecko was inspired by wall-climbing gecko lizards — in addition, of course, to its magnetic trotters. And speaking of, these magnetic feet are ridiculously strong, with each able to hold up to 2.5 times the robot's total weight.
Per New Atlas, Magnecko isn't yet autonomous and has to be controlled by a remote operator. But it is able to follow an operator-set path on its own without further guidance, and the student engineers behind the project certainly don't seem to be ruling future automation out.
"We plan on preparing the robot for inspection work first, but nothing prevents it from doing autonomous maintenance or remotely operated repairs in the future," team member Nicolas Faesch told New Atlas. "It can support payloads of several kilograms and with its insect-style configuration, it can easily position itself as required."
While we can see the machine's inspection capabilities being legitimately useful, however, there is a serious caveat to the tech: surveillance. Magnecko's battery life and ability to scale structures for a bird's eye view might make the spiderbot a powerful potential surveillance tool, and its creators aren't at all shy about this prospective — not to mention dystopian — use case.
"Surveillance is also a very interesting use case since the robot can hang in one spot for multiple hours to perform a task," Faesch told New Atlas, "thanks to the special magnetic feet that don’t require any power to stay magnetized."
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