Robots can now grab and hold ants without hurting them. And here we are, wondering if AI will take over the world. Hey! They wouldn't hurt a fly! Or an ant, in this particular case.
And that applies to least these robots created by a team of US researchers, led by Jaeyoun Kim from Iowa State University.
Even though this sounds like a complete waste of time, such technology has various applications in microsurgery, Tech Radar explains.
The soft-robot has tentacle fingers consisting of a very small tube made out of rubbery plastic from which air can be pumped in and out.
That pneumatic action allows it to curl itself into a circle with a radius of just 200 micrometres - about the size of dust particle, and far less than existing tentacle-bots which are at least a centimetre in size.
Its gripping force is just 0.78 micronewtons, and during experiments the tentacle was able to safely grab hold of an ant, as well as a particular type of fish egg called capelin that normally deforms and bursts easily when handled using hard tweezers.
Such miniature soft robots could be useful for microsurgery, New Scientist writes. The lassoing motion and low force exerted by the tentacle could be an advantage in endovascular operations, for example, where the target for surgery is reached through blood vessels.
Details of the researchers' discovery were published in the journal Scientific Reports, and the full report can be found on this link.