Robot Ants

Think of ants, of how these tiny insects manage to carry things way bigger than they are. Well, the same concept has been translated to robots by a group of researchers from the Biomimetics and Dexterous Manipulation Laboratory of Stanford University.

In their latest study, a group of six microbots that only weigh 3.5 ounces in total have managed to pull a car weighing 3,900 pounds. The demonstration is part of the team’s research that explores the limits of friction.

For a better visual of what these microbots can do, think of the microbots featured in “Big Hero 6”, where Hiro Hamada’s swarm of tiny robots were shown to complete impressive tasks. This demonstration is a bit like that, only on a much simpler scale.

Instead of figuring out how to achieve impressive lifting feats, the scientist focused on how they can seamlessly synchronize the movement of tiny forces—which the microbots manage to do, albeit very slowly—to pull things.


This is the same movement that ants have been known to display when transporting heavy objects, such as food.

“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 the paper discussing the research, which will be presented in May this year at International Conference on Robotics and Automation in Stolkholm.

The team notes that the microbot demonstration is tantamount to six humans trying to pull the weight of an Eiffel Tower plus three Statues of Liberty.

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