Picture this: You left your phone on the table, but as always, you forgot to put it on its wireless charging cradle, and when you're ready to leave the house, it's already almost empty again. A South Korean research team must've been really annoyed by that, as it has developed a tiny robot living in a phone case that gives the handsets legs, helping it crawl to the nearest charging pad.
Compared to something like Borderland 3's guns with legs, the CaseCrawler's legs are tiny and barely visible, even when in use. They can fold up, leaving your phone's back flat when it's currently not off wandering around the table. While the process of moving looks a little derpy (if not completely helpless) in its current state, the engineering feat behind the case is pretty impressive. When the tech is not built into the case, it's capable of lifting a load of more than 300g, which is 13 times its own weight of 22.7g. That's at a thickness of only 16mm. (Though it does get a little thicker and heavier when it's fully integrated into the case.)
The CaseCrawler is currently nothing but an interesting research project, so it isn't quite finished and ready to go on shelves. In the future, the team says that given "the appropriate sensing and control functions," the robot will even be able to find and return to its owner once the phone is charged.
I, for one, would love to go hands-on with a walking handset, though I doubt we'll ever see an actual phone-based product out of this. I'd instead expect to see wireless over-the-air charging before the CaseCrawler reaches a usable state. But it might turn out to be great fundamental research in robotics and might give us better and smaller robots in the future — maybe a new version of Vector?
To read more about the technology behind the case, check out the source links below.