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Ant-Roach illustrates potential for inflatable robots


November 25, 2011

Ant-Roach is a six-legged "pneubot," designed to showcase the capabilities of inflatable robots

Ant-Roach is a six-legged "pneubot," designed to showcase the capabilities of inflatable robots

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What weighs a little under 70 pounds, has six legs, and is full of air? No, it's not conjoined monkey triplets with gas - as you've doubtless already gathered from the picture, it's a walking inflatable robot known as Ant-Roach. Earning its name by looking like a cross between an anteater and a cockroach, the wonderfully-kooky beast is the creation of San Francisco-based engineering/design group Otherlab. Besides providing amusement, the device was built to showcase the high strength-to-weight ratios and carrying capacities that are possible with inflatable robots.

Although Ant-Roach is 15 feet (4.6 meters) long and can easily support the weight of several human riders at once, its sub-70-pound (32 kg) weight allows it to still be carried by one person - when it's deflated.

Its legs move due to built-in textile-based actuators, that contract upon inflation. That inflation, in turn, is made possible by several central manifolds, that dispense compressed air through pneumatic piping. The movements of the robot are dictated by an onboard microcontroller that wirelessly receives a signal from a laptop, which is running a control program.

Besides being strong yet light, portable, and able to carry heavy loads, inflatable robots would also likely be relatively inexpensive to produce on a commercial scale. Plus, at least in the case of Otherlab's example, they float on water! The technology shows enough promise that the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) provided some of the funding for the development of Ant-Roach.

The video below shows the robot being put through its paces.

Source: Hizook

About the Author
Ben Coxworth An experienced freelance writer, videographer and television producer, Ben's interest in all forms of innovation is particularly fanatical when it comes to human-powered transportation, film-making gear, environmentally-friendly technologies and anything that's designed to go underwater. He lives in Edmonton, Alberta, where he spends a lot of time going over the handlebars of his mountain bike, hanging out in off-leash parks, and wishing the Pacific Ocean wasn't so far away. All articles by Ben Coxworth

It needs extendable feet / ankles ? To expand and contract - to put the foot down and raise it up to give ground clearance - synched with the leg stepping motion.

Mr Stiffy

Fill it with a lighter then air gas, make it bigger and give it wings as well! That might look quite cool.

Paul Adams

The robot was a good first effort but lacked coordination and needed more grip on its feet. With some development, i\'m sure this could improve, but what is it useful for apart from a noisy children\'s attraction?

Kudos for thinking beyond the square.


It needa steps for a child to climb on and into the seat. The idea is great.


Next up, bring back the inflatable airplane. Goodyear Inflatoplane (GA468) Twelve were built in twelve weeks in 1956 and testing lasted through 1972.

Gregg Eshelman
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