This wall-climbing Spider-Man robot has a serious case of sticky feet

spider-botFor all flack that Spider-Man gets in his own fictional universe (particularly the 2007 film rendition…), there’s no denying that the ability to climb up walls is something we’re all fascinated by. So fascinated, in fact, that scientists have built a robot that can climb walls while carrying up to five times its own mass.

The unnamed robot is the creation of Dr. Fumiya Iida and fellow researchers at the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology in Zurich, Switzerland. The secret to its success is in its footpads, which are coated in an adhesive that’s heated to melting point. This thermoplastic allows the footpads to flow onto the surfaces they come in contact with to form a temporary bond, providing the ability to grip to walls. It’s not exactly as graceful or speedy as the natural (or radioactive spider) solution, but it apparently works.

“Our technology uses thermoplastic adhesives, which are much stronger than those used in gecko-type climbing systems,” researcher Liyu Wang told New Scientist. The thermoplastics began melting at around 70 degrees Celsius (158 degress Fahrenheit), and that appeared to be the temperature that provided maximum tackiness for the robot’s feet. Additional elements were still needed for a fast cool so the robot could lift the feet and take the next step.

Watching the robot in action is a somewhat amusing proposition. If anything, it looks more like a diminutive version of Star Wars‘ “Power Droid” that very slowly walks up vertical surfaces. Despite the slowness of the entire process (it takes around five minutes of cooling before the robot’s foot is free enough to attempt another step), the scientific development is amazing to watch. It is, after all, walking up a wall – and a wall of either stone or wood. This thing can also deal with rough terrain, unlike the window-washing robot we’ve previously seen that can only adhere to glass. Imagine the possibilities once someone manages to evolve the technology into something that’s both faster-acting and larger scale.

For now, Wang says that the team is considering the tech as something for vehicular usage. “We are thinking about using this to climb cliffs or other complex natural environments, which no previous climbing technologies can handle,” Wang says. It’s not quite the Spider-Man suit for humans that we’re all hoping for just yet, but we can hold out hope for awhile longer.

Emerging Tech

Only three people have explored the deep oceans. Meet the next two

In a new mission called Five Deeps, a team of explorers will brave the inhospitable depths of the world’s oceans, observing, mapping, and collecting samples along the way. The explorers aim to traverse 40,000 nautical miles over the…
Product Review

'Marvel's Spider-Man' slings and swings its way to the top of the superhero heap

Insomniac's entry into the superhero genre has a big suit to fill, but ‘Marvel's Spider-Man’ is a phenomenal action game, a strong Spider-Man story, and an open-world game that has plenty to do without getting boring.
Emerging Tech

Nvidia’s new A.I. creates entire virtual cities by watching dash cam videos

Nvidia's groundbreaking new machine learning technology can generate a convincing virtual city simply by showing it car dashcam videos. Here's how it works and why that's so exciting.
Emerging Tech

Early-detection system for wildfires could save many states from big burns

When it comes to dealing with the growing problem of raging wildfires, a new wireless smart sensor system could help spot burgeoning blazes before they rage out of control. Here's how it works.

Light up the night! Here are the five best headlamps money can buy

Headlamps make all the difference when camping or walking the dog at night, especially when you're in need of both hands. From Black Diamond and Petzl to Coast here are some of the best headlamps on the market.
Emerging Tech

Elon Musk to unveil tunnel elevators and autonomous pods on December 18

We'll soon learn if Elon Musk's high-speed tunnel plan is a serious effort at ending traffic jams or little more than a fancy theme park ride. A big unveiling event is coming on December 18, a week later than originally planned.
Emerging Tech

Hear the sounds of wind on Mars from InSight’s latest audio recording

NASA's InSight craft has captured the sound of the wind blowing on the surface of Mars. The audio file was picked up by the air pressure sensor and the seismometer which detected vibrations from the 10 to 15 mph winds in the area.
Emerging Tech

The best drone photos from around the world

Most of today's drones come equipped with high-end cameras, which are quickly revolutionizing the world of aerial photography as we know it. Here are some of the best drone photos from around the world.
Emerging Tech

Feast your eyes on the wildest, most elaborate Rube Goldberg machines ever built

Want to see something totally mesmerizing? Check out several of the best Rube Goldberg machines from across the internet, including one that serves cake and other that do ... nothing particularly useful.
Emerging Tech

The 20 best tech toys for kids will make you wish you were 10 again

Looking for the perfect toy or gadget for your child? Thankfully, we've rounded up some of our personal favorite tech toys, including microscopes, computer kits, and a spherical droid from a galaxy far, far away.
Emerging Tech

Scoot your commute! Here are the 9 best electric scooters on the market

Electric scooters are an affordable, convenient way to minimize your carbon footprint and zip around town. Check out 8 of our current favorites, whether you're working with a budget or have some cash to spare.
Emerging Tech

Sick of walking everywhere? Here are the best electric skateboards you can buy

Thanks for Kickstarter and Indiegogo, electric skateboards are carving a bigger niche than you might think. Whether you're into speed, mileage, or something a bit more stylish, here are the best electric skateboards on the market.

Has Columbus, Ohio raised its IQ yet? A progress report from the mayor

Two years ago, the city of Columbus in Ohio received $40 million to pursue smart city initiatives. So, what’s happened since then? We spoke with its mayor, Andrew Ginther, to discuss progress and what’s ahead.
Emerging Tech

Awesome Tech You Can’t Buy Yet: Folding canoes and ultra-fast water filters

Check out our roundup of the best new crowdfunding projects and product announcements that hit the web this week. You may not be able to buy this stuff yet, but it sure is fun to gawk!