The Question that I propose is: Can insect-like robots perform tasks superior to that of any other style of robot? I am going to prove to you that the answer is yes, of course they can! With their superior stability and many less drawbacks that larger wheeled robots the legged insects can out perform even the most powerfully computing machines in many tasks. The applications of these robots are only limited by our imagination.
Many people believe that artificial intelligence and robots should only be for unthinking and repetitive tasks, or for dangerous but straightforward undertakings (Economist 83). But as human understanding and intelligence of computer systems and technology progresses the idea of artificial intelligence becomes more of a reality instead of a vision. Right now a computer can be a matchmaker, a chess champion, and a useful searcher of medical information.
And many people and programs are changing that with their leaps and bounds by actually giving the machine senses like a database of knowledge and sight and sound in the forms of a camera and a microphone respectively. In one case a robot can sense hunger by making a decision when it is running low on fuel to choose to refuel before it completes its task that has been scheduled. It may have to refuel multiple times before the task is completed. The decision can even be made taking into effect the distance it is away from a refueling station (Economist 84).
This is one reason why a small insect like robot could be more useful, because it could be more efficient and adaptive to the task at hand. Much of the robotics community believes that a robot will have to be huge in size and programming to be useful in anything. But many of those types of robots could only mover across smooth surfaces like floors or roads for it to be stable and have no chance of it damaging itself by tipping over. The only way that robots could ever move where humans could, was to develop legs.
But legs could be unstable causing the robot to fall, which concerned many people. But it wouldnt be a concern if the robot was the size of an insect since insects fall down all of the time and they seem to still get around ok (Waldrop 963). Many of these small robots have been developed for medical treatment since some are invisible to the naked eye. They can be anything from pumps to help operate an artificial pancreas to help with diabetes; another could help with intracellular surgery and even decompose after its task is completed.
In science the microbots could be used to move individual cells around in a petri dish (Thro 81). As I said before the possibilities are only limited by our imaginations. Some of these very small robots are actually modified computer chips that are so tiny that the take advantage of the piezoelectric effect which directly converts electrical energy into mechanical energy. This effect is not useful in normal size models but in the microbots it can be very useful (Researcher 993). One microbot named Genghis has been a marvel of engineering.
With only simple commands the robot acts instinctively to walk, turn, and jump just as if it were full of life. As Genghis walks over obstacles it keeps its balance by pulling legs in and out even as it walks forward. If the robot doesnt lift its leg high enough to clear an obstacle it instinctively pulls it back and then lifts it a second time only higher than the first (Waldrop 963). The heir to Genghis is being prototyped to be a mars rover that can walk over the surface like a six-legged insect easily collecting data with its instruments on its three-kilogram frame.
But the main advantage to the small robot is that for the same price as a hefty mobile robot you could place a couple of handfuls of the little robots; each of them carrying different instruments so that if one failed you would still have more left to take observations. Another advantage of the six legged robot would be that if it fell upside down its legs and instruments could rotate 180 degrees to rite the robot so that it could move along (Waldrop 966). The vision of robots with the looks, similarities, and the dexterity of the human body is leaps and bounds away from reality.
Many new technologies still have to be developed to achieve this goal even though some are in place as we speak. Robotics in general has a long way to move before it can have a drastic clutch on the term artificial intelligence. The area that is still showing the most promise is the world of microbots and insect-like bots that can navigate rough terrain with nimbleness, and even can act instinctively. The area that shows the most promise for these bots is in the medical fields which could use some of these instruments as very precise tools.