If you thought a robot cat was cool, how about a wall-climbing robot gecko! The indecently clever Sangbae Kim has spent the past few years looking at the Van der Waal-force harnessing feet of the lizard, which use microscopic hairs to form close bonds with a surface and thus adhere to them, and mimic that action with a cable-controlled foot design.
We covered Stickybot before, when it was named one of Time magazine’s “best inventions of 2006”, and now it’s been featured at the the American Association for Advancement of Science conference.
Now I don’t claim to be able to understand exactly how it works, but each foot has a toe with seven-degrees of freedom that is biased toward pressing downward and making a secure bond with the surface it’s against. The base of each toe is covered in 300-micrometre-thick hairs.
Through carefully angled cable-runs the whole foot can be operated by just twelve servos, and the robot as a whole move at speeds in excess of 4cm/sec. You can see Stickybot in action on Kim’s video page.