The secret to Disney’s gravity-defying, wall-climbing robot? Not sticky wheels

They can just about walk on water, and now, robots can walk on walls too. A new robot named VertiGo is the latest to come out of Disney Research, and with its ground-wall transition capabilities, it’s one of Disney’s coolest inventions of 2015. Created as part of a partnership between Disney Research Zurich and ETH, VertiGo features “two tiltable propellers that provide thrust onto the wall, and four wheels.” And a whole lot of adventure.

The robot climbs by way of the propellers — because there are two, Disney explains, “thrust is applied both towards the wall using the rear propeller, and in an upward direction using the front propeller, resulting in a flip onto the wall.” This allows VertiGo to quickly make its way onto a wall, and then navigate it with ease.

Impressively, all of the robot’s gravity-defying feats are the result of physics, not adhesives or other “sticky feet” type mechanisms. Working much in the same way that spoilers do on a car (improving traction to keep the wheels on the road) the steerable nature of the propellers allows for the robot to keep chugging along regardless of orientation. As long as the batteries in the VertiGo stay juiced and the propellers can keep spinning, there’s no way that it’ll come crashing down from its vertical climb.

While Disney’s latest robot is currently naught but a very neat toy, the potential applications of this new technology are pretty exciting. A machine that can easily traverse a range of terrain and is effectively gravity-agnostic could be used in rescue situations, finding and communicating with people who might otherwise be trapped in difficult positions.

There’s no word yet on what Disney plans to do with their latest invention. But hey, seeing a wall-climbing robot is a pretty nice expression of the best aspects of our times.

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