Last year NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory unveiled a device that would allow a spacecraft to latch itself on to passing comets and asteroids. The success of this grip-like device, and the options it opened up, led them to further develop it into a robot that could scale rocky walls. This four-legged robot called LIMUR IIB has four grippers, each with a 750 claws, and is strong enough to not only scale walls but can hold its grip while hanging upside down.
Originally the claw technology was designed for an astronaut as a hand-held device to be able to aid in the collecting of soil samples from the Moon or Mars. But as the technology developed it was soon realized that the claw technology could be integrated into robot form. This robot would be able to scale any porous surface.
It moves slow, but then again it is upside down.
The way the claw system works is that each gripper has actuators attached to the 750 micro-spine claw grips. According to the video below, when the robot places its gripper on a rocky surface “torsion springs push the claw into the rock” and “an engagement actuator draws the claws inward through a network of springs that allow the claws to independently find rough spots to grip.” Once it finds its grip, the robotic claw is then capable of lifting up to 35 pounds.
There are still some issues to work out with the device, however. It currently only has three degrees of movement, limiting it to relatively flat surfaces. It also has to be tethered to a controlling device.
Check out the video below for a detailed look at this interesting new development: