Throughout history, humans have always borrowed ideas from Mother Nature. As clever as we can be, nature holds the original patent on many of man’s modern innovations. For instance, the idea for Velcro was inspired by plant burrs that stick to dog hair. Glider planes have wings that were modeled after those on an albatross. Gecko feet inspired researchers to create a super strong adhesive. There’s a surplus of examples out there, but here’s a possibly life-saving piece of tech that comes from an unlikely and thoroughly repulsive source: the common American cockroach.
A cockroach can…
- Squeeze through the most tiny of spaces without injury
- Withstand being crushed by up to 900 times their body weight
- Flatten itself down to a quarter of its height
- Move at a speed of 20 times its body length per second when squished down to a fraction of its height
Scientists at UC Berkeley studied how the cockroach accomplished the above feats, and designed a robot to mimic each one. The CRAM robot, short for Compressible Robot with Articulated Mechanisms, is about 20 times the size of the bug that inspired it. It’s the first step toward building a machine that can one day be used to squeeze through rubble during disasters and search for survivors.
If you’ve ever tried to kill one, you already know that cockroaches can live through nearly anything. Humans, by contrast, are very easily crushed, burnt, smothered, or poisoned. What better way to help find survivors in a dangerous environment, like a building collapse caused by a terror attack, than with an indestructible robot based on a roach?