Japanese bridge inspection robot has magnetic wheels, shuffles up walls

Most wall-climbing robots rely on advanced forms of suction to keep them adhered to a flat surface, but Japan's latest wall crawler employs a different method: magnets. Hailing from the Osaka City University Graduate School of Engineering, BIREM (which stands for Bridge Inspection Robot Equipping Magnets) is designed to -- as the name suggests -- inspect bridges. Riding four spoked wheels adorned with eight magnets a piece, it can creep across metal girders at a rate of 7.8 inches per second. Its flexible midsection promises to give it an edge over uneven structures, and its creators hope that it will eventually lower infrastructure inspection costs. You won't see it crawling across the Golden Gate any time soon, however -- the team doesn't expect to commercialize it for another three years.