This robot is called Ant-Roach. Ant-Roach is called Ant-Roach because to those with a fanciful imagination it looks a bit like a cross between an anteater and a cockroach, although it'll take an even more fanciful imagination to figure out a way that that could ever naturally come to pass. Imagination or no imagination, this thing exists, it moves, and you can ride it (AWESOME).
And, it's completely inflatable, muscles and all.
Is that not one of the greatest things ever? Just look at his nose!
Ant-Roach weighs only 70 pounds (seeing as it's hollow and made of fabric), which means that one reasonably in-shape person can carry it around (as long as it's been deflated first). As you can see from the pic, though, the robot is capable of supporting a lot of weight: as much as 1,000 pounds.
To move, Ant-Roach uses what looks to be four independently controllable pneumatic bags that have been designed to contract when inflated. By attaching these bags to the legs and torso of the robot and inflating and deflating them in sequence, Ant-Roach can be made to walk, turn, and even swim (sort of).
This robot is a project of Otherlab, which is also working on a pneumatic arm and hand:
It's hard to tell from the vid, but this two pound arm is capable of lifting several hundred pounds all by itself, and it can kick your ass any day of the week when it comes to arm wrestling.
So why the focus on inflatable robots? There are lots of reasons: they're cheap, they're (relatively) easy to build, they're (also relatively) easy to fix, and they have very high strength to weight ratios. Perhaps most importantly, being full of air, inflatable robots tend to be much more compliant than their metallic brethren, meaning that they're inherently safer to have operating around humans.
Evan Ackerman is a senior editor at IEEE Spectrum. Since 2007, he has written over 6,000 articles on robotics and technology. He has a degree in Martian geology and is excellent at playing bagpipes.