Want to read Slashdot from your mobile device? Point it at m.slashdot.org and keep reading!

 



Forgot your password?
typodupeerror
Check out the new SourceForge HTML5 internet speed test! No Flash necessary and runs on all devices. ×
Robotics Hardware Science Technology

6 Tiny Robotic Ants, Weighing 3.5 Oz. In Total, Pull a 3900-lb. Car (nytimes.com) 130

Reader schwit1 writes about MicroTug, a team of six microrobots that weigh just 3.5 ounces (99 grams), and can move a car: Researchers at Standford University's Biomimetics and Dexterous Manipulation Lab have developed six miniature robots that have the pulling-power to move objects 2,000 times of their own body weight. The tiny robots and their inter-coordination are based on that of ants. The microrobot uses a special kind of glue on its feet that make them serve as sticky gecko toes. "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," said David Christensen, a graduate student who is one of the authors of "Let's All Pull Together: Principles for Sharing Large Loads in Microrobot Teams paper. Researchers' fascination with gecko adhesive is nothing new. In 2010, Stanford mechanical engineer Mark Cutkosky developed a Stickybot that could climb walls. A similar robot that could roll up on smooth as well rough surfaces was demonstrated by a group of researchers in Canada in 2011.
This discussion has been archived. No new comments can be posted.

6 Tiny Robotic Ants, Weighing 3.5 Oz. In Total, Pull a 3900-lb. Car

Comments Filter:
  • by Anonymous Coward on Monday March 14, 2016 @11:06AM (#51693991)

    They made the car roll, not the same thing as pulling the effeil tower...

    • by KBentley57 ( 2017780 ) on Monday March 14, 2016 @11:12AM (#51694039)
      I was going to post something similar. I hate comparisons like these. The 'ants' are pulling against the rolling resistance of the car, not the car laying on its side, as would be the case with the tower equivalent weights. Unless you had some gigantic roller bearings to slide them across.
    • by wonkey_monkey ( 2592601 ) on Monday March 14, 2016 @11:18AM (#51694081) Homepage

      The car wasn't pulled

      They made the car roll

      Yes... by pulling it.

    • I don't feel that was misleading. When somebody says that they towed their car, I do not assume that they put it on it's roof to do so.

      One thing that I think IS misleading is when people demonstrate how strong something is by dropping a car on it, completely failing to mention that the suspension and tires are distributing the weight over time and that an equivilent brick would smash straight through.

      • Also picking up a car isn't as hard as you think either. It is heavy but most guys are strong enough to lift up one of the back corners as long as the gas tank isn't full.

        • ...thanks for the immasculation :p

        • by KGIII ( 973947 )

          A lady who used to work for me drove a little tiny Renault. A buddy and I would often pick up the back of her car and turn it sideways in the parking space. We didn't need any help for it or anything and we were able to easily pick it up - presumably the tank was either full or near full multiple times. Sometimes there wouldn't be much space so we'd have to pick up the front and move it a little and then do the rear end.

          Hmm... It might have been an Opel.

        • You couldn't pick up the spare tire, idiot.
      • by Obfuscant ( 592200 ) on Monday March 14, 2016 @12:56PM (#51694775)

        I don't feel that was misleading. When somebody says that they towed their car, I do not assume that they put it on it's roof to do so.

        And when they include the weight of the car in the statement, they are implying that the weight of the vehicle is somehow relevant.

        The main hurdle to "pulling" something is the friction, not the mass. If you put the Eiffel Tower on a set of rollers that had the equivalent rolling resistance that a 3900 pound car has, I betcha six people could pull it, too. If the brakes aren't on, one person can push a loaded railroad car. And if you use levers and pulleys (machines) for assistance, you can pull a lot.

        At many county fairs there used to be a popular show called "the tractor pull". People would compete in pulling a loaded sled with their tractors. They'd all start out able to pull the sled, but as the sled moved forward, so did a large weight that increased the friction between the sled and the ground. Only the beefier tractors could pull it the full distance, but all of them could pull it.

        • by unrtst ( 777550 )

          And when they include the weight of the car in the statement, they are implying that the weight of the vehicle is somehow relevant.

          Exactly.
          6 tiny robots were able to pull this car. However:
          * comparing them to ants is fucked up. They're WAAAY larger than any ant I've ever seen!
          * the legged versions were not the ones to pull the car
          * the video shows what is essentially 6 miniature wenches, not walking robots
          * that car was pulled by 6 pieces of string (of some sort). That should put it into perspective how little force they are actually exerting.

          I'm sure there's some interesting stuff going on, but the summary and article are both distort

          • the video shows what is essentially 6 miniature wenches, not walking robots

            I don't care what they do as long as they are available to bring me my slippers, a couple of beers, and a sammich when I want them.

          • by Khyber ( 864651 )

            "the video shows what is essentially 6 miniature wenches"

            I think you need to fix your glasses. Boobs were not present in that video.

        • The main hurdle to "pulling" something is the friction, not the mass

          Mass is inertia. To pull a car a reasonable distance in a reasonable time, you need to be able to exert real force.

        • > And when they include the weight of the car in the statement, they are implying that the weight of the vehicle is somehow relevant.

          It is relevant. Walk up to a car that's in neutral and sitting still and press lightly on the back end. It won't start rolling. It's not that it rolls very slowly. It doesn't roll at all. You could sit there for an hour and nothing would happen. You have to push pretty hard to get it started (as anyone who's helped move a stalled car can tell you), and while the detai

          • That's only true if the static friction is high enough - which, despite efforts to minimize friction and resistance, is still very imaginable for something like a car.

            If the friction were to be zero, it would start moving right away, it would just accelerate very, very slowly, perhaps even imperceptibly for a few moments.

        • by KGIII ( 973947 )

          > At many county fairs there used to be a popular show called "the tractor pull".

          There still is. They do oxen, horses, tractors, and trucks. I'm sure they do more. I've had the chance to see all of the ones that I've mentioned. The ox are kind of cool and they make some decent money if they win. The horses are pretty neat too. The ons that I know, I know personally and they're actually working animals but that is a long story. I'm not much for the tractors or the trucks but they seem to have quite a foll

      • It was misleading because they included the weight. That's not directly involved in understanding the rolling resistance. Also, some tow trucks do put the entire car on the bed.

        • A bed which is supported...by wheels...

          • Either way, that's no different than putting it on its roof.

            When somebody says that they towed their car, I do not assume that they put it on it's roof to do so.

            Either way, the weight has no direct correlation with the rolling resistance (which would be different depending on whether the car was pulled or carried on a truck bed).

            • by KGIII ( 973947 )

              > the weight has no direct correlation with the rolling resistance

              Assuming high-school physics then, sure. Otherwise, while not really significant, weight impacts resistance where things like the tires compress and bearings have greater friction applied. It's not likely to be significant but it is certainly some. In a perfect world where things like the the tires do not compress due to weight than, sure. I'd say things like the tire compressing and added friction on the bearings are both directly correla

              • OK. Direct correlation is the wrong phrase. To be extremely specific, I meant that you can't infer the number of newtons of force from the vehicle weight alone. All other things being equal, the weight has a direct correlation on rolling resistance but all sorts of other factors would be involved such as the type and tread and age of tire, number of wheels, distribution of weight and all that. The weight alone is relatively meaningless.

        • So you are saying that it takes the same force to pull a 10 pound block on wheels than a 1000 ton block on wheels? (Yes, you are an idiot)
          • You caught me on semantics. I wasn't using the phrase "direct correlation" mathematically. I meant that there are other factors and that you can't infer the rolling resistance from the weight of the vehicle alone, making that exact measurement relatively meaningless.

        • There is no such thing as a tow truck that puts the entire car on the bed. What you are thinking of is called a Ramp truck, not a Tow truck. It turns out that the word Tow has meaning, and even lowly towing and recovery professionals know the difference. When the fuck are you going to learn the English language?
      • the misleading part is describing the robots as ants. This evokes images of hexapod robots straining their tiny feet. The video even shows such robots walking around. Those aren't the robots that did the towing though. the actual robots are just a winch glued to the floor. For all i know. the touted synchronization is nothing more than each robot blindly executing the same timeline of roll, glue, pull from one synchronized starting signal.

        Granted, they are tiny winches powered by the LiOn batteries that
    • Things don't scale that easily. Even if the strength to pull were strong enough it would pull the Eiffel tower apart as well. But people like to scale up the "ants can carry 200 times their own weight" all the time even though the physics doesn't make sense.

  • by Etherwalk ( 681268 ) on Monday March 14, 2016 @11:12AM (#51694041)

    It's all fun and games until somebody loses an Eiffel Tower and three statutes of liberty.

    • I don't understand the comparison. Now if it was in libraries of Congress, I'd get it.
      • How much does the Library of Congress weigh?

        • How much does the Library of Congress weigh?

          Oh, about 6 lbs, according to this blog post [loc.gov]. Now, they didn't say it weight 6 lbs., but I used the bullet point that stated

          ."..it is estimated that the entire collection of the Library of Congress including photos, sound recordings and movies might take 3,000 TB of storage. Assuming $100 each for 2 TB hard drives, the entire book collection of the Library of Congress could be stored on about $1500 worth of hard drives at today's prices." LINK [familysearch.org]

          I looked up 2 GB external HDs and picked one at random. This Seagate Express 2 TB External HD [amazon.com] weighs 6.4 oz.

          Hence, 15 2TB HDs at 6.4 oz. each, divided by 16 oz/lb = 6 lbs.

      • I'm still trying to convert 6 tiny robots into 'N' European swallows.
        • They have a conversion rate to African Swallows, but the conversion between Swallow types is not standardized.

    • Hence bill C-9432, a.k.a. "the David Copperfield bill".

  • Not that tiny (Score:4, Interesting)

    by wonkey_monkey ( 2592601 ) on Monday March 14, 2016 @11:18AM (#51694085) Homepage

    6 Tiny Robotic Ants

    They're not tiny if you're comparing them with ants.

  • Terrible summary (Score:5, Interesting)

    by burtosis ( 1124179 ) on Monday March 14, 2016 @11:28AM (#51694157)
    F=ma so if a is small then F, the force from the robots, can also be small. With over inflated tires and a smooth flat surface the rolling friction F needs to overcome can be quite small. Even a small child could push a 3900lb vehicle under the right circumstances. It would be far more useful (and less impressive to the masses) if an actual figure of force was given, much less any other relevant information.
    • Re:Terrible summary (Score:5, Informative)

      by Jason Levine ( 196982 ) on Monday March 14, 2016 @11:47AM (#51694299) Homepage

      From the paper ( http://ieeexplore.ieee.org/xpl/articleDetails.jsp?reload=true&arnumber=7407333&contentType=Early+Access+Articles linked to in the summary ):

      We present a simple statistical model to predict the maximum pulling force available from robot teams. The expected performance is a function of interactions between each robot and the ground (e.g. whether running or walking). We confirm the model with experiments involving impulsive bristlebots, small walking and running hexapods, and 17 gram Tugs that employ adhesion instead of friction. With attention to load sharing, each Tug can operate at its individual limit so that a team of six pulls with forces exceeding 200 N.

      So it looks like the 6 robots can pull with 200 Newtons of force

  • by by (1706743) ( 1706744 ) on Monday March 14, 2016 @11:28AM (#51694159)
    Apparently they beat MIDT, Hardvard, and the like...
  • Anyone knows an ant, can't Move a rubber tree plant

  • by nimbius ( 983462 ) on Monday March 14, 2016 @11:39AM (#51694239) Homepage
    This kind of technology might seem inconsequential, heck, even beneficial in the 21st century. I come to you from the future, the year 2143...and I beg you, do not unleash this pandoras box. our world is much like your own, except for a highway of autonomous --some say even sentient -- high speed statues of torchwoman --you know her as the statue of liberty -- rivaled in terror only by their helltower counterparts as they blaze across the wasteland once known as "texus" and "Cauli-forgnia." Most cower in fear of their herds, others worship them as signs of bountiful harvest or the approach of the cadmium rains. these are the new gods of our foul world, and we have only you to blame.
  • Is my math off, or theirs? Because 3.5 oz (0.219 lb) worth of bugs pulling 3900 lbs is a 1:17,800 ratio, not 1:2000.

    • It's a little closer if each robot weighs 3.5oz individually (so 1.313 lbs total)... but it still comes out to 2971x... so where did 2000x come from?

  • Can enough of these robot insects fit under my feet so I can glide effortlessly around the Bi-Lo? Seqways are too bulky and Luddite.
  • by King_TJ ( 85913 ) on Monday March 14, 2016 @12:07PM (#51694477) Journal

    Not saying the achievement isn't notable ... but pulling a vehicle isn't quite as difficult as they want you to believe.

    Here's a video of a girl in Morocco pulling a car by her pony-tail!

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?... [youtube.com]

  • Give me a lever, and a place to stand...

  • 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," said David Christensen

    What's this? An Eiffel Tower and Statues of Liberty for ants?

  • Is it just me of the tiny robot move forward then use a suction cup to immobilize themselves while pulling?

    If that's so, that mean the whole technology depend that robot work on a flat surface. It's way less impressing if it's the case.

    • by KGIII ( 973947 )

      Gotta be honest here... That's a fuck of a lot better than any robot that I've made. How about you, what is the power:weight ratio for your robot?

  • some strongmen competitions have guy pulling 35 ton locomotive

  • ...to our new Robot Overlords.
  • I for one welcome our very slow, car stealing, microbot overlords, but how good are they at playing Go?
  • by Anonymous Coward
    The six-legged ant robots in TFA's video were being used to demonstrate running behaviors. The robots used to pull the car had two wheels, a suction cup and no legs.
  • Well, if little, tiny ants can get a 3,000+ lb car rolling then I need to start spending more time in the gym. Looks like robots are the future, has anyone seen that Boston company with the crazy robots? Frightening, really.
  • The mechanical ants weight 0.099kg and have 200N of force which translates to roughly 20.4kgf (kilogram-force).

    That would put a 75kg adult being able to apply 15450kfg.

    A very far cry from the 7.3 million kg the Eiffel tower weights but, nonetheless, absolutely impressive.

1.79 x 10^12 furlongs per fortnight -- it's not just a good idea, it's the law!

Working...