Okay, I know it’s not exactly rational – but I admit I have a healthy dose of arachnophobia. Even those little eight-legged creatures which lurk in the bath just as I want to pour in some bubbles and relax send a shiver down my spine.
So, the latest invention by a group of engineers in Hong Kong is enough to make my skin crawl.
The Robugtix T8 robo-tarantula (see even the name is scary) is made with 26 little motors so that it moves just like the real thing.
The outer shell of the T8 is made with 3D printing technology. But, underneath, each of the legs house three separate motors while there are two more on the arachnid’s abdomen, allowing the user to make it strike terrifying poses, as if it is about to attack.
But, despite the complicated mass of engineering underneath the body, the T8 is fairly straightforward to operate. It’s all powered by a little controller which runs a movement engine known as Bigfoot Inverse Kinematics.
This means the person controlling the spider doesn’t have to worry about sending it detailed instructions. You simply decide how, and which way, you want your spider to move. Then, the engine works out all the complicated movement processes for you.
The robot has been designed by the research, engineering and design company Amoeba Robotics, which is based in Hong Kong and specialises in realistic robotics. It comes as a kit that needs to be built, with users of the spider bot able to choose between pre-programming their own spider sequences or controlling the critter in real time with a wireless remote.
“The engine automatically handles all of the complex math theory and calculations required to control a multi-legged walking robot,” say developers, “which means that users can focus on what they actually want the robot to do, without having to worry about the complicated details.”
Robugtix is now accepting pre-orders on the T8, although it certainly doesn’t come cheap. A full size version of the scary octopod costs £900, although a smaller, cheaper six-legged model is also expected to be made available for just over £160.
The hexapod version contains 18 motors rather than 26, although there are still three in each leg, but none in the creature’s body, meaning it still moves in the same way as its larger sibling, but can’t strike a pose.
Thankfully, the robot arachnid doesn’t have any of the scary tricks up its fuzzy little legs that real tarantulas do. A toddler in the US recently had to have hospital treatment after a tarantula brought to his birthday party by an exotic animal handler shot tiny barbed hairs into his eye – a little known defence mechanism. And tarantulas do also have venomous bites, although they are not usually dangerous to humans.
But, a farm in Chile is now importing around 30,000 non-biting tarantulas every year to Asia, Europe and the US, as exotic household companions. Suddenly, the Robugtix T8 doesn’t seem quite so bad after all.