Arachnophobes might want to look away. This giant black spider—about the size of a piece of office paper—is a robot, but it can move like the real thing.
The T8 robot is the creation of Andres and Billy Han, brothers in Hong Kong who have long been obsessed with robotics and wanted to push themselves to make something that hadn’t been seen before. "We wanted to test what we could do—see how far we could take it," says Billy Han.
Inside a 3-D-printed shell, 26 motors attached to the legs and abdomen bring the arachnid to life. The structure mimics the way joints are naturally interconnected. "To make the robot more fluid, we studied a lot of insects beforehand and tried to mimic them with the engine," Han says. "The way we programmed it allows it to move smoothly, and the motors we picked also give it a really smooth motion that makes it more realistic. That’s one of the things that we were going for."
It definitely has moves. Check out the salsa dancing demonstration in this video.
The first version of the T8, which came out last month, was 3-D-printed to help the design process along. "3-D printing allows us to try out different shapes and configurations and iterate quickly," Han said. "And 3-D printing also gives the option to create shapes that are normally impossible through conventional manufacturing methods." But 3-D printing is also slow, and pretty pricey: It’s currently listed for a hefty $2,950. The next version, out in the summer of 2014, will be mass-manufactured and much more affordable.
Who’s buying it? Other people who are obsessed with robots. Han says that the T8 is useful for those who don’t have any coding experience; the design makes it easy to manipulate. Someone can take a preprogrammed sequence, like the dance routine above, and change the movements themselves without special technical knowledge. "Building one of these multi-legged robots at first can be quite a daunting task," Han says. "These are a good stepping stone for someone to explore robotics."