Robot hordes are one step closer as robo roaches learn to work together

It takes two to tango. Two heads are better than one. The more the merrier.

There’s no shortage of adages about the benefits of cooperation. Even the animal kingdom expresses this value. Ants attach to each other to form giant rafts after heavy rainfall. Lions hunt in prides. Humans have an inclination toward self-interest, yet still cooperate to reach a shared goal. Inspired by these natural displays of cooperation –particularly in Australian jumping ants, who team together to travel over tough terrain– mechanical engineer Carlos Casarez decided to build cockroach-like robots that work in pairs to overcome obstacles. 

At UC Berkeley’s Biomimetics Millisystems Labs, Casarez and Professor Ron Fearing developed the velocity robotic autonomous crawling hexapod (Velociroach) – a set of simple machines capable of climbing tall steps in teams. To do so, the lead robot first scrambles it’s front legs onto the obstacle. The second robot then pushes from behind, while attaching a magnetic tether to the robot in front. Once the first robot is securely up the step, it moves forward and digs its legs into a crevasse. The back robot then pulls on the tether while scrambling, eventually managing to climb the step and detach the magnetic tether from the front robot.

The process definitely isn’t seamless, but it works. However, each of the cooperative climbing stages fails about half of the time as the robots get stuck, flip over, or fall from the step. Even in the successful attempt, the robots seem to just flail their limbs until they find their footing. 

UC Berkeley robotics labs have been the birthplace of a number of insect-inspired robots in the past. The Micromechanical Flying Insect Project saw roboticists develop a small, flying robot inspired by fly flight aerodynamics. Earlier this year, engineers built a cockroach-inspired robot that can squeeze through tight cracks. The Velociroach and these other machines may seem insignificant, but their creators hope they will one day assist in search-and-rescue operations in areas where human travel is either unsafe or impractical. 

Emerging Tech

Awesome Tech You Can’t Buy Yet: Robotic companions and computer-aided karaoke

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's fun to gawk!
Gaming

Your PlayStation 4 game library isn't complete without these games

Looking for the best PS4 games out there? Out of the massive crop of titles available, we selected the best you should buy. No matter what your genre of choice may be, there's something here for you.
Emerging Tech

This sleek new exoskeleton makes walking easier, fits under your clothes

A new ankle exoskeleton that is designed to be worn under clothes can help people to walk without fatiguing — and without restricting natural motion or drawing attention to itself.
Gaming

Here's our Champion's guide to picking the best character in Apex Legends

Apex Legends' use of heroes with different abilities helps separate it from other battle royale games. To help you choose your legend, we've put together a legend guide detailing their abilities, strengths, and weaknesses.
Outdoors

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 Petzl to Tikkid, here are some of the best headlamps on the market.
Emerging Tech

A hive of activity: Using honeybees to measure urban pollution

According to a new study from Vancouver, bees could help us understand urban pollution. Scientists have found an innovative way to measure the level of source of pollution in urban environments: by analyzing honey.
Emerging Tech

Spacewalk a success as astronauts upgrade batteries on the ISS

The International Space Station was treated to some new batteries on Friday, thanks to two NASA astronauts who took a spacewalk for nearly seven hours in order to complete the upgrades.
Emerging Tech

Asteroid Ryugu is porous, shaped like a spinning top, and is formed of rubble

The Japanese Space Agency has been exploring a distant asteroid named Ryugu with its probe, Hayabusa 2. Now the first results from study of the asteroid are in, with three new papers published.
Emerging Tech

Is it a bird? Is it a plane? No, it’s a super-speedy pulsar

A super-speedy pulsar has been spotted dashing across the sky, discovered using NASA’s Fermi Gamma-ray Space Telescope and the Very Large Array. The pulsar is traveling at a breathtaking 2.5 million miles an hour.
Emerging Tech

Chilean telescope uncovers one of the oldest star clusters in the galaxy

An ultra-high definition image captured by the Gemini South telescope in Chile has uncovered one of the oldest star clusters in the Milky Way. The cluster, called HP 1, could give clues to how our galaxy was formed billions of years ago.
Emerging Tech

Astronomers discover giant chimneys spewing energy from the center of the galaxy

Astronomers have discovered two exhaust channels which are funneling matter and energy away from the supermassive black hole at the heart of our galaxy and out towards the edges of the galaxy, dubbed galactic center chimneys.
Emerging Tech

A milestone in the history of particle physics: Why does matter exist?

If matter and antimatter were both produced in equal amounts by the Big Bang, why is there so much matter around us and so little antimatter? A new experiment from CERN may hold the answer to this decades-long puzzle.
Emerging Tech

Dublin Airport has a novel idea for tackling rogue drones

There are a growing number of technology-based solutions for dealing with rogue drones flying near airports, but officials at Dublin Airport have come up with another idea for keeping the skies safe.
Emerging Tech

Microsoft’s latest breakthrough could make DNA-based data centers possible

Could tomorrow's data centers possibly store information in the form of synthetic DNA? Researchers from Microsoft have successfully encoded the word "hello" into DNA and then back again.