It may not be able to survive a nuclear blast, but this tiny VelociRoACH robot is pretty darn impressive. Although it’s just 4-inches long, the VelociRoACH can run so fast that it covers 27 times its own body length in just one second – that’s about a 10-minute mile – making it the fastest robot in the world for its size. The cardboard robot is the brainchild of Duncan Haldane and his colleagues at UC Berkeley’s Biomimetic Millisystems Lab, who strive to mimic animal features such as movement and sensing in order to improve robotic capabilities.

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In order to create the shape and movement of the robot, which was created using recyclable cardboard and plastic, the scientists studied the American cockroach (P. americana). The American cockroach is one of the fastest insects in the world, whose spring-like legs allow it to scramble super quickly across the floor,  moving at 50 body-lengths a second. The lab has also created other insect-like robots with wings, tails and multiple legs in order to mimic animal movement.

Haldane explains that the goal of these robotic innovations is to assist in search and rescue operations. Each robot is constructed using what is known as the Smart Composite Microstructures process, which means that each robot can be built quickly and affordably as needed during disaster situations. This process involves creating an exoskeleton out of folded-up sheets to create a structure contain both rigid and flexible parts, similar to those seen on the cockroach itself. “The idea is that we can build a huge number of very cheap, bio-inspired robots with remarkable mobility to quickly find people trapped in a disaster site,” says Haldane. The VelociRoACH was revealed recently at the annual meeting of the Society for Integrative and Comparative Biology. Who would have thought a cockroach would be so useful?

+ Biomimetic Millisystems Lab, Department of EECS, UC Berkeley

via New Scientist