Necrobotics is an odd new idea in robotics. This is not necrobiosis, which refers to the natural death of cells, but “necro” meaning death plus “botics” meaning robots. Robots made from dead creatures. In particular, spiders.
Researchers at Rice came up with the term. They repurposed dead spiders as robot grippers.
Spiders have chambers in their eight legs which move and grip things when the spiders fill them with blood. It’s kind of a hydraulic system, rather than pairs of muscles like mammals use. Researchers found that they could use glue and electricity to control the spider legs, and still get a good grip on objects.
“When we did it, it worked!” researcher Faye Yap said happily.
They’re seeing this as an opportunity to create things to work in small spaces, perhaps in building electronics or collecting insect specimens.
They point out that the necrobots are biodegradable, which sounds good. On the other hand, they’re not just biodegradable but downright perishable. The spiders dry up and are probably not very hygienic as they decompose. Even very small dead bodies might not be what you want in your factory.
The scientists describe the first step in creating the necrobots as “euthanasia.” But that word means painlessly taking a life in order to end suffering. We don’t know how much spiders feel pain or how much they suffer, but we think the right term would be “kill.” This may bother some people.
While Hackaday pointed out that people might be able to tolerate spider necrobots, doing this with a cat or dog or even a hamster might be less acceptable. At present, the researchers plan to try out scorpions but say nothing about moving up to higher animals.
We think that’s just as well.
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