There's nothing that inspires shriek-worthy horror quite like the terrible skittering of a cockroach bursting out from whatever dark corner and racing frantically to the next. Well that's not reserved for just normal, squishable cockroaches any more. The VelociRoACH, a six-legged, 4-inch little sucker, darts around at speeds of over six miles per hour, or 26 body-lengths per second, making it one of the fastest robots around.
Developed at the University of California, the roach can move so fast by making use of six legs that spin fast enough to hit the ground 15 time per second, and flex in a way that literally springs the bot forward. Three of the legs stay on the ground at all times, forming a sort of stabilizing tripod. As for obstacles, the roach just slams into them head-first, and leaps up over them after the recoil gives it an angle to sort of hop up over.
The VelocriRoACH is already faster than its organic counterpart, but developer Duncan Haldane doesn't intend to stop there. His next step is to make the bot impervious to death by foot by building the bot out of materials that can spring back into shape after being stomped. In theory, it doesn't seem quite as foul as the real thing by virtue of not being alive and not looking quite as gross at a glance, but the way the thing moves is still unsettling as ever. I really hope there isn't some kind of wide-ranging application for these things. Eugh. [New Scientist via Popular Science]