Remote-controlled crab-like robot is the smallest ever, university says

Engineers at Northwestern University in Evanston, Ill., announced they have created what they believe is "the smallest-ever remote-controlled walking robot."  

The robot resembles a tiny crab and measures just a half-millimeter wide. It can "bend, twist, crawl, walk, turn and even jump," according to a university news release. 

Footage released by Northwestern University showed the tiny robot scurrying left to right and right to left, just as a crab would. 

Tiny robot

Smaller than a flea, tiny robotic crab sits next to the eye of a sewing needle. (Northwestern University via Storyful)

Size comparisons showed the robot appearing no bigger than the tip of a ballpoint pen or the eye of a sewing needle. 

Researchers have also created millimeter-sized robots resembling inchworms, crickets and even beetles. 

And while the robots are being made purely for exploratory purposes, researchers believe this will inspire further innovation of micro-sized technologies that can perform practical tasks inside tightly confined spaces. 


Tiny walking robot stands on the edge of a coin. (Northwestern University via Storyful)

"Robotics is an exciting field of research, and the development of microscale robots is a fun topic for academic exploration," said John A. Rogers, who led the experimental work. "You might imagine micro-robots as agents to repair or assemble small structures or machines in industry or as surgical assistants to clear clogged arteries, to stop internal bleeding or to eliminate cancerous tumors — all in minimally invasive procedures." 


Tiny robotic crab sits on the tip of a ball-point pen. (Northwestern University via Storyful)

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Storyful contributed to this report. This story was reported out of Los Angeles.