RiSE: The Robotic Wall Crawler

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The robot invasion is nowhere close to over.  Singularity Hub has reported on a multitude of autonomous machines (the autonomous forklift, KIVA, Asimo) that may one day force honest, hardworking people to the unemployment lines.  Maybe it’s not a big deal if Mom and Dad are out of jobs, but when Spider-Man is made redundant, well, that’s just not cool.

rise_robot_climbs_wall1Yes, the folks over at Stanford have (with the help of Carnegie Melon, UPenn, and Boston Dynamics) created RiSE, a robot designed specifically to scale walls.  RiSE is a six-legged machine that uses two different nature-inspired technologies to hang from vertical surfaces.  The key to RiSE’s gravity defying success is in its feet.  Each foot contains a directional adhesive that uses Van der Waals molecular forces to stick to the surface as well as an array of tiny micro-spines that act as hooks and grab onto small surface defects on the wall.

RiSE’s climbing action is a combination of two different Stanford robot technologies.  The adhesive property was borrowed from StickyBot, a robot modeled after the wall-climbing abilities of the gecko, while the spine action was adapted from a robot named, you guessed it, SpinyBot.  SpinyBot was designed to mimic the way that insects, most notably spiders and cockroaches, ascend vertical surfaces.  In RiSE, the combination of these two technologies offers a superior stick, allowing the robot to carry a payload equal to its own weight.

RiSE is capable of scaling walls made of brick, stucco, concrete, fiberglass, carpet, and even trees.  And, to make things even cooler, it is capable of moving from floor to wall without any assistance.  There has been no word, however, on if RiSE can tackle ceilings.  Check out the video below for some choice footage:

Science fiction buffs and conspiracy theorists will instantly equate RiSE with the mobile surveillance devices seen in futuristic films, but this robot has more real world applications than just eavesdropping.  Sure, put a microphone and a transmission device on the thing and it would certainly make a handy spy bot, but it could also possibly be used to effectively transfer supplies when there is no safe way up.  Take, for instance, a fire in a crowded office building.  While firefighters combat the flames and try to make their way up the stairs and ladders are on the way, fireproof blankets and first aid supplies could make their way up the side of the wall and in through an open window or vent.

RiSE could also be very useful on a construction site, allowing for materials to be sent up to the work site without requiring people to risk their safety by ascending and traversing the structure.  There are many future possibilities of a gravity-defying robot, but RiSE still has quite a ways to go in the developmental phase before it becomes that crime fighting, civilian rescuing (web slinging) wall crawler we all hold dear in our hearts.

Andrew is a recent graduate of Northeastern University in Boston, MA with a Bachelor of Science in Chemical Engineering. While at Northeastern, he worked on a Department of Defense project intended to create a product that adsorbs and destroys toxic nerve agents and also worked as part of a consulting firm in the fields of battery technology, corrosion analysis, vehicle rollover analysis, and...

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