Harvard University researchers have been working on a miniature robot called the Harvard Ambulatory Microbot (HAMR) for a while now. The insect-inspired, waterproo microbot recently received an upgrade, and now it can swim and walk underwater – on land, too. While it’s not the most graceful looking robot on those huge foot pads, it is quite capable.
The foot pads use surface tension and related buoyancy to float on the water, while electrowetting (reducing the contact angle between a material and a water surface under a voltage) helps it break through the water and also walk on the ground below. Plus, its circuits are coated in Parylene to prevent them from shorting out.
When it’s time to return to land, HAMR overcomes the surface tension force with a stiffened transmission and soft pads that redistribute the friction while it climbs out of the water. The robot weights only 1.65-grams. If it were larger it would have a hard time staying above-water. This guy may be tiny, but he can even haul cargo in the form of a 1.44-gram payload.
They still have to find a way to return HAMR to land without a ramp, but I’m sure they will accomplish that soon enough. The team is thinking about a jumping mechanism or gecko-like adhesives so it could climb walls too. I’m sure they have some other big ideas for this tiny robot down the road as well. Stay tuned.