Ah, yes, the least creepy experiment you could ever do: Robot Zombie Spiders. In a recent experiment, scientists used the bodies of dead spiders to create “necrobotic” workers, creeping out the entire world.
Dead Spiders turned into Robot Zombies
Created by creepy engineers at Rice University, real dead spiders were puppeted post-mortem as new robot tools. As someone who likes spiders, this is still very creepy.
Using the corpses of Wolf Spiders, the scientists were able to create powerful grabbing tools. As spider limbs are controlled through air pressure, a simple needle and air system allows the corpses to be controlled at will.
“Spiders do not have antagonistic muscle pairs… they only have flexor muscles, which allow their legs to curl in, and they extend them outward by hydraulic pressure,” said student Faye Yap. “When they die, they lose the ability to actively pressurize their bodies. That’s why they curl up. At the time, we were thinking, ‘Oh, this is super interesting.’ We wanted to find a way to leverage this mechanism.”
The scientists discovered that the pressurised spider corpses could lift 130% of their body weight. Furthermore, the dead spiders were able to be used over 1000 times with minimal wear and tear. Gross!
A step forward for soft robotics?
One of the main reasons why this experiment is important is because of its place in soft robotics research. Unlike traditional hard robotics, soft robotics aims for lifelike, fluid or air controlled mechanics that stimulate reality.
The use of these new “Necrobots” hasn’t exactly been realised yet. However, they have discovered a number of uses for grabbers made out of dead corpses.
One example was simple sorting tasks for small objects, using the minuscule spider corpses to grab items other robot arms cannot. Another example was using the necrobot to snatch live insects as they would be cloaked by the dead spiders’ natural camouflage.
Environmentally Friendly Spider Corpses
One of the biggest benefits of the dead spiders is the fact that they’re not destroying the environment. Since they’re using renewable resources that are naturally occurring, these could be the most environmentally conscious robots yet.
Study co-author Daniel Preston explained: “The spiders themselves are biodegradable. So we’re not introducing a big waste stream, which can be a problem with more traditional components.”
While the corpses of spiders may fit this purpose right, there’s also the fact that these bodies have to be acquired. If the spiders were to be used en masse, then there would have to be a constant supply of spider corpses. Now that’s really messed up.