Put away the bug spray—that’s not a mutant cockroach you’re looking at. Instead, researchers are using the amazing resilience of the repulsive insect as inspiration for a new robot—and it could save your life.
The robot, lovingly dubbed Compressible Robot with Articulated Mechanisms (CRAM), is designed to help first responders locate survivors following earthquakes and other disasters. They’re notable because they’re cheap to produce, using off-the-shelf electronics. If mass produced, their cost could be around $10.
Scientists used cockroaches as inspiration not only for their uncanny ability to survive, but their ability to squeeze through the smallest of spaces. These loathsome insects can squish their bodies down to one quarter their normal size, and they are also capable of withstanding 900 times their body weight. That’s Superman-levels of strength. Additionally, a cockroach is capable of traveling 50 body lengths in a second, which is probably why you have such a hard time catching them when they terrorize you in your home.
CRAM is outfitted with a series of sensors, microphones and cameras, giving first responders an important tool when searching through rubble. It’s also designed to tell rescuers whether or not debris is stable enough to search through.
They’re vile pests, and always seem to sneak around our homes under the cover of night. But cockroaches have provided a wealth of knowledge to scientists about survival, and could one day lead to your rescue.