One is a robot bird that can't travel by land. The other is a cyber-cockroach that cannot fly. When they work together, they can surpass any obstacle.
These days, a significant number of modern robots are designed with biological principles in mind. Why bother thinking up new legs when you can base working models from animals, or reimagine flight when you can just mimic birds? Most of the time that's just simple pragmatism, but now it's allowed for something wonderful - a robotic cockroach and bird tag-team. Constructed by UC Berkeley's Biomimetic Millisystems Lab, this partnership shows how robots can work together to bypass obstacles while looking like best friends in the process.
Dubbed the H2Bird and the VelociRoACH, these robots work together to travel by land and air. The bird starts from a latched position on the roach's back as it speeds ahead to its destination. When the time is right, the bird detaches into an independent unit and flaps its little cyber-heart out as it rises into the air. The VelociRoACH is a necessary part of the flight however - it needs to achieve a minimum velocity of 1.2 m/s to ensure a successful launch.
So what's the practical point to all of this? In short, while we're great at building robots for land travel and robots for air travel, combining the two isn't so easy. It's like taking an airplane and using it as a land vehicle - severely impractical on multiple levels. Based on Berkeley's report, building independent robotic units that work together is more efficient and makes it easier to navigate a wider variety of obstacles. But even if that wasn't the point, having two robots that sound like science superheroes working together is still incredibly awesome.