Like the noble ant or the sassy-yet-lovable tugboat, Micro Tugs can pull more than their own weight. The robots, which come from Stanford’s Biomimetics and Dextrous Manipulation Lab, use a “controllable adhesive” plate that sticks to surfaces only when shear pressure is applied. In one case a 12 gram robot was able to pull objects 2,000 times its own weight.
“This is the equivalent of a human adult dragging a blue whale around on land,” wrote the researchers.
How does it work? The robot uses two simple wheels to scoot around and then drops onto its sticky belly when it needs to pull an object. A built-in winch then pulls the object briefly, allowing the little robot some slack to move forward a little on its wheels. It can repeat this process ad nauseam, allowing it to pull huge objects without much trouble.
The goal of the project is to create a robot that can drag heavy objects into difficult areas, and thanks to the controllable adhesive pad, it can drag objects across any relatively smooth surface. Although you won’t be able to go crawling in the grass, tile, glass and concrete are fair game.