Some of the cockroach’s most disgusting properties are now being used for good.
Researchers at the University of California, Berkeley, have harnessed the survival skills of the icky pests into a robot prototype that could be used to find victims in an earthquake or other disaster. The cockroach bot was described in a paper published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences on Monday.
But the living cockroaches who invade our kitchens are still gross. In a new video (above), the researchers put roaches to the test and discovered that they can withstand almost 900 times their own bodyweight without injury — no wonder the little $$@@!! won’t die when we step on them.
They can squeeze through one-tenth-of-an-inch crevices and skitter away at high speed, even when they’re flattened in half.
At least all that indestructibility is pushing search-and-rescue technology forward.
Kaushik Jayaram, lead author of the paper who conducted the research while earning his PhD at UC Berkeley, designed a palm-sized robot that is capable of collapsing like a real roach. Named CRAM, or Compressible Robot With Articulated Mechanisms, it can be equipped with a camera and a plastic shield to mimic the roach’s hard-but-flexible exoskeleton.
As CBS noted, CRAM looks more like an armadillo, but its properties are roach-like and may someday save lives.
“In the event of an earthquake, first responders need to know if an area of rubble is stable and safe, but the challenge is, most robots can’t get into rubble,” Robert Full, a professor of integrative biology at UC Berkeley and co-author of the paper, said in a statement. “But if there are lots of cracks and vents and conduits, you can imagine just throwing a swarm of these robots in to locate survivors and safe entry points for first responders.”
CRAM is in the prototype phase, but it’s grudgingly raised our opinions of cockroaches.
“It’s a nice lesson in humility,” Daniel Goldman, an associate professor at the Georgia Institute of Technology who was not involved in the research, told the Atlantic. “These animals are not simple in any way, shape, or form—and especially not in their shape or form.”
Yeah, but they’re still disgusting.