Built by researchers at Harvard and the University of Colorado, the Harvard Ambulatory MicroRobot (HAMR) is just 2.25 centimeters long. It "comes up to about knee-high on a cockroach," writes Evan Ackerman in IEEE Spectrum, and can run like hell. Four piezoelectric-driven legs carry it around at 30 centimeters per second even carrying its own weight in batteries or sensors. The makers of HEXBUGs should sponsor this research! From Ackerman's interview with the lead researcher, University of Colorado professor Kaushik Jayaram, in IEEE Spectrum:
Are there good reasons to make HAMR-Jr smaller, and how much smaller could HAMR robots get?
For a number of real world applications, we would like HAMR-Jr to be smaller and possibly more capable. Specifically, crevices in the rubble from collapsed structures are often just a few centimeters long. Similarly, in one of our previous collaborations with Rolls-Royce for engine inspection tasks, we found that typical boroscope port diameters are 8 to 12 mm in commercial jet engines. For robotic surgery related applications, the constraints are even smaller, as the largest arteries are only about 8 to 10 mm.
Making at-scale robots also makes it easy to use them as platforms for testing biology hypotheses (especially about insect locomotion) without worrying much about the physics of scaling, which is often unknown.
I hope to see a fully autonomous (both power and control) and highly capable version of HAMR-Jr fit within a one centimeter cube within the next few years.
"HAMR-Jr Is a Speedy Quadrupedal Robot the Size of a Penny" (IEEE Spectrum)
image: Kaushik Jayaram/University of Colorado Boulder/Harvard SEAS