A group of scientists at Rice University are experimenting with using dead spiders as “necrobotic” gripping claws, and the internet is horrified.
CBS News posted a video Thursday showing the experiment in action. According to an article written by the scientists, to be published in the journal Advanced Science, the experiment was inspired by the science of robotics taking inspiration from nature. The unique function of spiders’ legs inspired the researchers to use material from dead spiders as “necrobotic” material, biological parts from dead animals used as robotic tools.
Researchers have turned dead spiders into necrobotic grippers capable of lifting items that weigh more than 100 times their own body weight. pic.twitter.com/GHYaJSXF5H
— CBS News (@CBSNews) July 28, 2022
“Designs perfected through evolution have informed bioinspired animal-like robots that mimic the locomotion of cheetahs and the compliance of jellyfish,” the researchers wrote in their article. “[B]iohybrid robots go a step further by incorporating living materials directly into engineered systems. Bioinspiration and biohybridization have led to new, exciting research, but humans have relied on biotic materials—non-living materials derived from living organisms—since their early ancestors wore animal hides as clothing and used bones for tools.”
“In this work, an inanimate spider is repurposed as a ready-to-use actuator requiring only a single facile fabrication step, initiating the area of ‘necrobotics’ in which biotic materials are used as robotic components,” the researchers continued.
“The unique walking mechanism of spiders—relying on hydraulic pressure rather than antagonistic muscle pairs to extend their legs—results in a necrobotic gripper that naturally resides in its closed state and can be opened by applying pressure. The necrobotic gripper is capable of grasping objects with irregular geometries and up to 130% of its own mass. Furthermore, the gripper can serve as a handheld device and innately camouflages in outdoor environments. Necrobotics can be further extended to incorporate biotic materials derived from other creatures with similar hydraulic mechanisms for locomotion and articulation.”
The video shows how the experiment works. In one clip, a dead spider is attached to a syringe, attached to a crane-like device. The spider is lowered down toward an object, then injected with hydraulic that causes the legs to extend. The pressure is then released, causing the spider’s legs to wrap around the object and successfully pick it up. This experiment is repeated several times. The video claims that the spiders could be used in fields like microelectronic manufacturing, and would be beneficial because spiders are biodegradable, unlike machine parts.
Twitter users, however, were not so impressed.
“[W]atch one single movie please i am begging you,” writer and podcaster Shea Serrano tweeted.
“[F]inally a horrific way to pick up small objects,” added user @chipzel.
“Necrobots… using dead things to do weird, useless tasks…” acter Jon Cryer commented. “Makes sense… not at all a harbinger of the apocalypse…”
“[Z]ombie apocalypse betting market just went nuts,” YouTuber Liv Boeree tweeted.
“[G]onna demand a two-course requirement on dystopian fictions for engineering schools,” UC Davis historian Eric Rauchway wrote.
“A bit of bad news now. Bored scientists managed to create Robot Zombie Spiders,” comic book author Francesco Francavilla chimed in. “Coincidentally that’s the title of my next comicbook too.”
“Ah, sweet, man-made horrors beyond my comprehension,” user @OutraSilvoca tweeted.
“[G]otta admire the ingenuity of scientists trying to find a way to end human civilization that goes hard,” added user @borgposting.