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Robotic Insect Can’t Be Squished

Credit: EPFL

The evil powers of hard-to-squish bugs now serve us!

I swear some bugs have some kind of wacky psychic powers. I’ve swung at them with swatters, shoes, and towels, but even when I’m sure I nailed them, they just appear right next to my hand. Bugs may be annoying, but you gotta hand it to them, they are tenacious. That’s why a group of Swiss engineers have modeled their latest soft robot off the un-squishable bug.

The engineering team from École Polytechnique Fédérale de Lausanne designed a soft robotic insect that they’ve named DEAnsect. The “DEA” stands for “dielectric elastomer actuators,” which are the artificial muscles the robot vibrates to move. These muscles are encased in an elastic shape-memory membrane that can always return to its original form when compressed. This makes the DEAnsect incredibly resilient to physical trauma. Flyswatters, shoes, hands; no matter what you smack it with, it’ll bounce right back.

The engineers believe that the DEAnsects could be mass-produced into a remote-controlled swarm, which could then be utilized for things like remote repairs or inspections. One could also be theoretically deployed into an actual insect swarm for observation purposes.