A team of Harvard University researchers recently achieved a major breakthrough in robotics, engineering a tiny spider robot using tech that could one day work inside your body to repair tissues or destroy tumors. Their work could not only change medicine–by eliminating invasive surgeries–but could also have an impact on everything from how industrial machines are maintained to how disaster victims are rescued.
Until now, most advanced, small-scale robots followed a certain model: They tend to be built at the centimeter scale and have only one degree of freedom, which means they can only perform one movement. Not so with this new ‘bot, developed by scientists at Harvard’s Wyss Institute for Biologically Inspired Engineering, the John A. Paulson School of Engineering and Applied Sciences, and Boston University. It’s built at the millimeter scale, and because it’s made of flexible materials–easily moved by pneumatic and hydraulic power–the critter has an unprecedented 18 degrees of freedom.
It’s smaller and more dexterous than any of its tiny robotic peers–a significant step toward robots that will be able to perform tasks inside the human body.