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Robo-Gecko Climbs Glass 143

Posted by ScuttleMonkey
from the going-up-the-slippery-slope-instead dept.
galactic_grub writes "Researchers at Stanford have developed a robot that mimics the extraordinary climbing skills of the Gecko. These creatures can climb sheer surfaces thanks to the intermolecular forces exerted by millions of tiny hairs their feet, called setae. The robot, Stickybot, has polymer pads on its feed with synthetic setae. Check out the video of it climbing up a sheet of glass."
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Robo-Gecko Climbs Glass

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  • Hrm.... (Score:2, Interesting)

    by BenHoltz (909754)
    Well.. if they had a camera.... they could spy on people in the Luxor Hotel in Las Vegas...
    • Ingenius application of the technology there.

    • Ahhh... here comes the next generation of internet voyeur pr0n! Aint technology a wonderful thing.
      • I can hardly wait for that to be on ThinkGeek.

        Imagine what you could do with a small, camera enabled remote controlled gecko toy. Just make sure that it has an LED chameleon-like skin. Beyond the Big Brother considerations, you could mix the draw of voyeurism and the joy of being a total geek.

        What more could any geek want?

  • by Serapth (643581) on Tuesday May 23, 2006 @06:32PM (#15390523)
    Since its only a blurb, here is basically the article in full

    A GECKO-like robot with sticky feet could soon be scampering up a wall near you. See a video of the robot in action here (24MB mov file). Geckos can climb up walls and across ceilings thanks to the millions of tiny hairs, or setae, on the surface of their feet. Each of these hairs is attracted to the wall by an intermolecular force called the van der Waals force, and this allows the gecko's feet to adhere. Stickybot, developed by Mark Cutkosky and his team at Stanford University in California, has feet with synthetic setae made of an elastomer. These tiny polymer pads ensure a large area of contact between the feet and the wall, maximising the van der Waals stickiness. The Pentagon is interested in developing gecko-inspired climbing gloves and shoes. Cutkosky says a Stickybot-type robot would also make an adept planetary rover or rescue bot. Frankly, I cant believe this tech couldnt have been done already, even twenty or thirty years ago. I have to imagine we've had the tech to do adhesiveness on demand based on an external stimuli ( such as electricity ) for many years. We have had the ability when the opposite material is metal since atleast the beginning of the space race, but even sticking to any surface on demand shouldnt be too difficult.

    My question is, does the armies interest stem from creating an army of spidermen?
    • "does the armies interest stem from creating an army of spidermen?"

      The military and intelligence applications for robots like these could be immense. No doubt there would be a huge invasion of privacy outrage if people knew these robots were being used for spying of some sorts.

    • by ErikZ (55491) on Tuesday May 23, 2006 @06:40PM (#15390573)

      I agree. I don't understand what's involved to make this possible, ego, it must be easy!

      Build me one of them search engine thingies. We'll go up against Google!
    • No spidermen, but they're certainly interested in small devices with sensors (cameras/chemicals) that can scale walls, crawl through small spaces, and go where no man has gone before.

      They also mention the rescue bot - that sounds like a great application for a collapsed building.
    • by Oxen (879661) on Tuesday May 23, 2006 @07:07PM (#15390710)
      It has only been in the last several years that scientists realized that gecko's use VDW forces to clime. It may seem obvious, but no one imagined that it would be possible to create enough VDW interactions to allow a large animal to stick to any surface. It works by simply increasing the surface contact to a ridiculous degree. What is amazing here is that this will work on any solid, clean surface. There are an extraordinary number of applications. Another huge benefit to this is that no energy is required to maintain adhesion.
      • What is amazing here is that this will work on any solid, clean surface.
        I assume you are aware that glass is in fact a liquid at room temp.
        • by dbIII (701233) on Tuesday May 23, 2006 @11:55PM (#15391775)
          I assume you are aware that glass is in fact a liquid at room temp
          Not in this room - since I am not on fire. Glass is a glass - a disordered state that could be considered to be similar to an incredibly dense liquid that isn't moving around if you want to use an analogy - but remember it is an analogy. Labelling silicon dioxide dioxide glass as a liquid is an oversimplification possibly used by science teachers talking to young children - in all other situations it is just wrong.

          Someone will probably bring up the old glass windows with thick bits at the bottom as an incorrect example of glass flowing (creeping) over time at room temperature. Consider - if you are a very clever person building a Cathedral with very large heavy glass windows of varying cross section, which end would you put at the bottom? The float glass method we use today was not around centuries ago, so builders did not have the nice panes of glass we have today.

          The disordered glassy state is also possible in metals and can have some advantages - for instance in an iron based glass the magnetic properties are very good and the strength is high. These materials are made with the right mixture of elements and a very rapid cooling rate (molten to solid in milliseconds) and are not stable at room temperature - but are called "metastable" because it will take centuries at room temperature to diffuse into the stable crystalline structure.

          One last thing - crystalline solids like lead alloys flow too with a high enough temperature and stress - like big lead organ pipes hundreds of years old or high pressure steam tubing over a few years. You don't need the glassy structure for creep to occur.

          • Consider - if you are a very clever person building a Cathedral with very large heavy glass windows of varying cross section, which end would you put at the bottom?

            The thin end of course! This way, when glass inevitably will start flowing, it will have the effect of "evening out" the uneven thickness, rather than accentuating it further.

          • for instance in an iron based glass the magnetic properties are very good and the strength is high.

            True professionals prefer aluminium though...

          • Fools! It's called "soquid" [wikipedia.org].

            Yes, you heard it first from slashdot that Glass is Soquid!
          • Have you read about those neat demos that materials engineers sometimes do where they drop a lead ball bearing onto a brick of amorphous steel, and the bearing continues bouncing for about two minutes because of how close to perfectly-elastic the collisions are? Now that is some cool shit. Materials engineers are truly the nerds' nerds, an inspiration to us all.
        • I assume you are aware that glass is in fact a liquid at room temp.

          I would like to point your attention to this article:
          http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Glass#Glass_as_a_liqu id [wikipedia.org]
          • Well color me uneducated! F-ing public schools! I hate that things I take for granted - like basic principles taught to me in grade school or high school science classes - are often incorrect in their own right.

            I know I should question everything I am taught - but if I were to question every single thing I was taught as a younster I'd need to live to 150 years old.

            So I guess I'll go ahead assuming that 2+2=4, but when my kid comes home and tell me that glass is a liquid, I'm gonna have to have a sit down
    • My question is, does the armies interest stem from creating an army of spidermen?

      I doubt the Army is interested in wall-climbing robots to make SpiderMen. More likely, they want man-portable devices that can climb up walls with sensors (for detection/observation), thin lead lines and anchors (to anchor a climbing rope that humans with packs can then climb), and so that they can scale up to hard-to-reach observation posts with remote-controlled sniper rifles.

      Or maybe they just want us to think they actually
      • Mod points for being off topic be damned, Im just delighted to see that you know Canadians are picking up the slack in Afghanistan. Im not kidding in any way here, its heartening to see that people notice our small but meaningful contribution. Many people based on Canada for not supporting Iraq, but seemed to forget that we have our people dying in Afghanistan as part of the war on terror too.
        • I'm not your average American, I actually served in the Canadian Army, mostly in mountain troops, and thus my comments on the robo gecko technology uses for military applications. But, yes, I am a Yank. Heard about the combat death of the Canadian soldier who died last week, think she was from Alberta, in a combat MOC as I understand.

          Still, wouldn't you rather it was a robot gecko climbing up there first, rather than a person? Especially if it slips or falls or is shot down ...
          • Frankly, I would always rather see a machine killed over a human. Sadly, in military thinking im the exception to the norm. It really does boil down to total cost of ownership ( TOC ) like in any other business. That depresses me greatly, but point blank the military assigns a value to each "asset" and acts accordingly. To use a horrible example, if the military had to chose between sacraficing an empty billion dollar aircraft carrier or a dozen troops, we both know how they will choose.

            But I am both
    • Frankly, I cant believe this tech couldnt have been done already, even twenty or thirty years ago. I have to imagine we've had the tech to do adhesiveness on demand based on an external stimuli ( such as electricity ) for many years. We have had the ability when the opposite material is metal since atleast the beginning of the space race, but even sticking to any surface on demand shouldnt be too difficult.

      The big problem with gecko gloves or any other application of this principle is keeping them clean. T
    • Frankly, I cant believe this tech couldnt have been done already, even twenty or thirty years ago. I have to imagine we've had the tech to do adhesiveness on demand based on an external stimuli ( such as electricity ) for many years. We have had the ability when the opposite material is metal since atleast the beginning of the space race, but even sticking to any surface on demand shouldnt be too difficult.

      http://www.berkeley.edu/news/media/releases/2002/0 9/rfull/robots.html [berkeley.edu]
      http://www.sfgate.com/cgi-bin/ar [sfgate.com]

  • by Rendo (918276) on Tuesday May 23, 2006 @06:34PM (#15390533)
    They could be used as small weapons filled with say gas to knock people out. People would all be like, oh look a cool gecko-ooo ARRGGHHH *hack hack hack..... thud*
  • Obligatory (Score:4, Funny)

    by Ajehals (947354) <a.halsall@pirateparty.org.uk> on Tuesday May 23, 2006 @06:36PM (#15390545) Homepage Journal
    I for one welcome our van der Waals force utilising Stickybot overloards.

    Seriously though, FTA "The Pentagon is interested in developing gecko-inspired climbing gloves and shoes." I want some of those, these if ever actually created (not sure what issues here would be but I assume mass, surface area and gravity would play in there somewhere) would have a huge impact on normal life. Just imagine the benefits to burglars, the next invention is going to have to be some very very slippery paint :)

    • Re:Obligatory (Score:1, Informative)

      by Anonymous Coward
      Slippery paint? If the forces are intermolecular, as tfa says, i don't think slippery would help. However, if the paint was in millions of thin layers (somehow), the first layer would be pulled off under the weight of the wearer, preventing them from getting a grip.
      • We'll Just invent better molecules for our "slippery paint"(TM) damn you for spotting obvious flaws in humorous posts!

        As a point, if the paint was in millions of thin layers (somehow), wouldn't the first layer be pulled off when anything exerting a strong enough force interacted with it, like wind or water on it surface?
      • Re:Obligatory (Score:2, Interesting)

        by LiquidCoooled (634315)
        It could be like Aerogel.

        Basically a dry foam covering on the wall which could leave prints from whatever tries to climb it.
        Because the surface will be fragile there would be nothing to get a grip on so it would fall, its like us trying to climb a sand-dune.

        You could even get a spray on compound and touchup bits which get disturbed.
      • by Fred_A (10934) <fredNO@SPAMfredshome.org> on Wednesday May 24, 2006 @03:45AM (#15392496) Homepage
        That new paint would only be applied starting at 10m above the ground though.

        Otherwise it wouldn't be much fun.
    • by Tackhead (54550) on Tuesday May 23, 2006 @06:43PM (#15390589)
      > I for one welcome our van der Waals force utilising Stickybot overlords.

      ...and I'd like to remind them that as an open-source HTML rendering engine, I could be useful in convincing people to save a bunch of money on their car insurance!

    • Re:Obligatory (Score:5, Informative)

      Just imagine the benefits to burglars, the next invention is going to have to be some very very slippery paint :)

      Already invented... you're looking for Fluoroplastic Paint [daikin.co.jp].

      • last I heard, the only things scientists have found that these setae wont stick to is Teflon(tm). I'm not sure how different that stuff is chemically from what you're talking about. The real problem, of course, would be getting the fluoroplastic paint to stick to your house.
        • Re:Obligatory (Score:3, Informative)

          by fossa (212602)

          Chemically, Teflon is polytetrafluoroethylene or PTFE, a carbon chain with flourine occupying all other bonding (polyethylene, one of the simplest synthetic polymers, is a carbon chain with hydrogens). The carbon-fluorine bond is particularly strong, resulting in the non-stick properties. I'd assume the chemical properties of Fluorplastic paint to be similar to those of PTFE. I recently read a newspaper article that gave light descriptions of how PTFE was bonded to various types of cooking ware (can't remem

          • I recently read a newspaper article that gave light descriptions of how PTFE was bonded to various types of cooking ware (can't remember it... grr).

            I always thought it was done using lots of tiny Geckoes...
    • by Instine (963303)
      Will I be able to park my flying car on windows?
    • by gijoel (628142)
      Seriously though, FTA "The Pentagon is interested in developing gecko-inspired climbing gloves and shoes."

      At last I'll have something to go with my spider man underpants.
    • You only need the surface to be wet as well as smoooth. I have seen spiders on the glass screen of my shower. They have more trouble hanging on as the condensation builds up. Dunno if it would be the same for geckos.
  • by P3NIS_CLEAVER (860022) on Tuesday May 23, 2006 @06:39PM (#15390566) Journal
    It was pretty cool, at Cal-Tech the gravity detector's mirrors were so flat that they didn't need adhesive to fix them in place.
    • As Anonymous Coward said, even the comparatively rough gauge blocks used in machining setup can be wrung together, which is traditionally done by touching one of them to your inner (not-so-hairy) arm to get some perspiration or oil, then placed against the other and pressed/turned. They *stick* like magnets. You see the same thing with wet microscope slides. All you need is enough flatness to let the applied water form a capillary film between the surfaces, so increasing the flatness quality reduces the
    • Pssh, I've seen far simpler gravity detectors [conservegravity.org].
  • Hmmm... (Score:4, Funny)

    by frosty_tsm (933163) on Tuesday May 23, 2006 @06:49PM (#15390622)
    Could this become part of a Geico commercial?
    • by spun (1352)
      Every time I see those commercials, I think about Hawaii. I lived in Waianae for a year. It's a very small town on the leeward coast of Oahu. My roommate's daughter, Chisa, HATED geckos, which were everywhere. And I do mean everywhere, I counted the geckos in just the living room one night and there were about 80 of the cute little things. She didn't think they were cute, one of them fell off the ceiling (because they flip out and fight ALL THE TIME!) and landed in her mouth while she was sleeping.

      She would
  • by neuro.slug (628600) <neuro__@ho[ ]il.com ['tma' in gap]> on Tuesday May 23, 2006 @06:53PM (#15390638)
    Maybe it can climb their server racks to figure out what's causing the burning plastic smell.

    Mirrors, anyone?

    -- n
  • video url (Score:5, Informative)

    by user24 (854467) on Tuesday May 23, 2006 @06:59PM (#15390665) Homepage
    the site's not loading for me in firefox (it says infinite redirect loop, though it works in *spit* MSIE)
    here's the video URL:
    http://bdml.stanford.edu/twiki/pub/Main/StickyBot/ Stickybot_040106.mov [stanford.edu]
    • Worked for me with Firefox/1.5.0.3. Do you have Fasterfox on a high setting? I've seen problems on some sites with that.
    • rofl, you gotta love the "Aaaagh" as it begins to fall.
    • the site's not loading for me in firefox
      Strange, doesn't FF use the Gecko rendering engine? You should at least see the Gecko ...
  • Speed (Score:4, Interesting)

    by majaman (958076) on Tuesday May 23, 2006 @07:03PM (#15390689)
    It didn't mimic the speed of a Gecko, though. That thing was dog slow, and about as sticky as a toy dart shot on a brick wall. Or a real dart for that matter.

    Otherwise it was kinda cool.

    • The issue was with prying a foot off the glass--it took a fair bit of force, and sometimes the recoil afterward was enough to free a second foot. A more robust implementation with the same pad system would determine whether an additional foot was freed and reattach both.
  • besides adding this stuff to a robogeico?

    Last of heard of this technique it had a problem in that it gets dirty VERY quickly and starts losing its sticky :(

    Having to hire a window washing crew everytime i want to play spiderman downtown gets too expensive and really slows down those rescues :(
  • by lottameez (816335) on Tuesday May 23, 2006 @07:20PM (#15390762)
    Several women at Stanford's Delta Sigma Theta sorority have reported sightings of strange reptilian creatures crawling around and affixing themselves to the exterior windows of their campus bathroom facilities. Sally Railmane, a sophomore at the school, described a strange light burst, similar to a camera flash, coming from the window creatures as she stepped out of the shower this afternoon. "It was creepy" she said.

    University officials were unavailable for comment.
  • by ystar (898731) on Tuesday May 23, 2006 @07:20PM (#15390764)
    Glass is pretty rough stuff on a molecular level though, and there are so many varieties of it and methods of polishing the surface of glass - teflon however, with such a low surface energy, would have been a much more revealing test. On another (slightly OT) note, it's a shame to see military applications first in line to be mentioned. I don't mean to downplay their importance in bankrolling many innovative technologies and applications but for possible wartime uses to be implied between the lines after every new discovery has to play some influence on how Americans (and brits to a lesser extent) view war - something other than atrocious.
    • becasue the military ahs the money for the research, no company will spend millions on a maybe. Once a product is succesfull, the US will get it's money back via tax dollars.

      I would also like to point out that the trend has been for the military to get tools that are more effictive at getting a precise target. Which means fewer people killed on both sides.

  • Can it offer me up to 50% off my car insurance?
  • Doomed (Score:2, Funny)

    by Joebert (946227)
    Mark Cutkosky

    Why, after seeing the mention of "Government" in that article, does that name look like Mark Cut Cost"-ky ?
  • by JudgeFurious (455868) on Tuesday May 23, 2006 @07:31PM (#15390806)
    It's bad enough knowing that we're getting closer every day to the moment when robots decide that we're just too much damned trouble to keep around but do we have to keep developing new things to make them impossible to escape from? Anyone else see this and start connecting the slashdot articles?

      There was the one about the Japanese chick robot followed by the similar South Korean model, then a little farther back we have our artificial "muscle".

      Combine those with the story a year or so back about the robots that power themselves by digesting organic matter and frankly all my best nightmares start out on Slashdot. I'll probably be in my 60's when the sexy Japanese carnivorous wall climbing robots with super strength come to get me.
  • by Kelson (129150) * on Tuesday May 23, 2006 @07:33PM (#15390814) Homepage Journal
    Not only can it render HTML, CSS, XML, SVG, W3C, MCP, MJB, DVD, BVD, and other TLAs, but it can climb walls, too!

    I don't see that showing up in IE7! Hah!
    • Not only can it render HTML, CSS, XML, SVG, W3C, MCP, MJB, DVD, BVD, and other TLAs, but it can climb walls, too!

      Not only that, but it could save you 15% or more on your auto insurance!
  • by Nineteen.Eleven (852341) on Tuesday May 23, 2006 @07:41PM (#15390849)
    ...is a radioactive spider and you too can climb walls.
  • Yes but... (Score:1, Funny)

    by Anonymous Coward
    It may climb walls, but can it also save you thousands on car insurance?
  • Researchers at Stanford have developed a robot that mimics the extraordinary climbing skills of the Gecko.
    Why firefox han't got this feature yet?
  • How well does this stuff grip slippery surfaces like beer bottles or oiled/sweaty human skin? There might be some interesting applications for gloves if it does.
  • My question is why can't this be done much more easily with suction instead? I mean like a hollow round thing you suck the air out of so you don't fall of. You see people in crime-movies all the time using that to remove glass they've just cut. That seems like a much more viable solution for a non-organic unit.
  • Something like this [cmu.edu] has already been done at the CMU nanorobotics lab.
  • dusty, sticky feet (Score:3, Interesting)

    by justthisdude (779510) on Tuesday May 23, 2006 @08:54PM (#15391079)
    I saw a presentation on this work last year. The concept of tiny hairs sticking to surfaces is not difficult. The tricky part is keeping the hairs clean, because they stick to EVERYTHING, quickly develop a coating of dust and stop sticking. Scientists have yet to mimick the self-cleaning properties of Gecko feet as they curl off the surface after each step. Until they do, robo-geckos will not function long except in a well-scrubbed lab.
  • Late April fools? (Score:2, Informative)

    by Slashcrunch (626325)
    Anyone notice the date on the video? April 1st 2006. Could it just be small suction cups on a cool bot and not something more spactacular?

    Although i think this is a cool bot in itself, I never trust anything released on April 1st :)
  • Remember when spiderman used to need to build webshooters, because he did not actually have the ability to make his own webbing? Well now he doesnt need the ability to climb walls! He just wears gloves and boots of this stuff, and he can climb walls! That and a bit of speed, and you the the Amazing Spiderman!
  • by Animats (122034) on Tuesday May 23, 2006 @09:37PM (#15391254) Homepage
    Cutkowsky has had this technology working for several years now. It's not just for glass; it works on many other building surfaces, too, like concrete walls. It doesn't require a smooth surface. They've had robots climbing up buildings at Stanford for a while now.

    Here's the web site for the project. [stanford.edu]

    They have a new and powerful fabrication technique, too. They use a stereolithography machine to make their parts, but they use it in an unusual way. They use a machine that's intended to make multicolored objects from several different colored materials, and load it up with materials with different physical and electrical properties. So they can make a one-piece 3D part with soft parts and hard parts, or insulating parts and conductive parts. This is the beginning of a whole new kind of fabrication, which is what Cutkowsky is really into.

  • by nick_davison (217681) on Tuesday May 23, 2006 @09:48PM (#15391302)
    These creatures can climb sheer surfaces thanks to the intermolecular forces exerted by millions of tiny hairs their feet, called setae.

    I, for one, can't wait for the "at home" version.
  • Finally... (Score:3, Funny)

    by Pedrito (94783) on Tuesday May 23, 2006 @09:53PM (#15391321) Homepage
    I can finish making my "spidy" suit....
  • (sala) manDerWalls forces.
  • And in a further development, when questioned about the fact that these "revolutionary" feet look, act, and sound suspiciously like suction cups, the lead scientist ran out of the room, mumbling something about misleading names for racehorses...

  • I love how the picture in the article is at 250x147, but you can enlarge it to a whopping... 290x171. Yes, you can increase the dimensions of the picture by an astounding SIXTEEN PERCENT! Why do they even bother unless they're going to at least double the image size?
  • I know some of the people who originally did the research that discovered (and quantified) the mechanism for how geckos stick to walls. They also have done research on how gecko feet self-clean [pnas.org] because sticky substances innately pick up debris that make them not-sticky. TFA has people making sticky stuff, but to the best of my knowledge they haven't yet gotten the self-cleaning aspect down, which is going to limit their long-term usefulness.

    (from the article I linked: "Contact mechanical models suggest t

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