Stanford's μTug minibots are on a roll lately.
This article was originally posted on March 15, 2016.
The latest battery of experiments at Stanford's Biomimetics and Dextrous Manipulation Lab dealt with harnessing the power of ants in robot form — specifically, researchers hoped to replicate ants' ability to work together to haul very heavy objects. In the experiments, robots that jump or walk with a quick, jerky force were quickly determined to be inefficient in groups, while the μTugs won out due to the longer duration of pulling force they were able to create with their tiny winches. If you've ever played tug of war than this strategy already makes intrinsic sense. Not only could the μTugs mimic ants through teamwork, but they anchored themselves to the ground with an adhesive borrowed from gecko toes.
To prove just how powerful the robots are, scientists took a group of six μTugs — which can pull up to 23kg each — and had them move a full-sized car with a passenger inside. Did we mention the passenger was the author of the research paper? When those things start self-replicating, he's going to be the first one they come after.