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4-gram 'Tribot' shows off heat-activated high jumping

Mariella Moon, @mariella_moon
September 28, 2015
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At the École Polytechnique Fédérale de Lausanne (EPFL), a laboratory that specializes in origami robots has created one that was inspired by the inchworm. The tiny 4-gram machine called "Tribot" can crawl, jump seven times its height and then resume crawling without any resting period in between. Since Jamie Paik's team at the Reconfigurable Robotics Laboratory couldn't use typical bulky motors to create a light and foldable machine, they had to use titanium and nickel "shape memory alloy" to build actuators and springs for it. Tribot crawls by heating those memory alloy parts with an electric current -- the heat makes its limbs "remember" or pop back to their original shape after expanding. In the video below, you can watch the researchers discuss both Tribot and the other origami robot they're developing, a four-limbed "Crawler."

At this point in time, the team still doesn't have a specific application in mind for Tribot. It's not your typical robot, after all -- plus, it's tiny. One thing's for sure, though: it can be sent anywhere on Earth it's needed, shipped in flat layers en masse "just like Ikea furniture," according to Paik. If you add other features to it, such as cameras or sensors, then theoretically it can be used for anything from surveillance to search-and-rescue operations.

In this article: EPFL, folding, origami, origamibot, robot, tribot
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