If you're wondering how the inevitable robot apocalypse will take place, here's a hint: Chinese researchers have invented the world's first cloth-climbing robot, which can grasp onto creases and climb up your clothing, perch on your shoulder, and potentially whisper messages into your ear, according to IEEE Spectrum.
One possible application for the so-called Clothbot involves inspiring a new generation of mobile phones that are capable of autonomously crawling up to your ear whenever the phone rings.
It gives new meaning to the idea of owning a "mobile" phone. And as if having a phone crawl out of your pants isn't creepy enough, researchers also envision the device doubling as a Tamagotchi-like pet, which could roost on your shoulder or follow you around.
Clothbot works thanks to a gripping mechanism that creates a wrinkle in a piece of clothing. It then clasps onto the crease with a pair of opposed gripper wheels and proceeds to drive straight up. To keep its balance and adjust its climbing trajectory, the robot comes equipped with an omni-directional tail. (Yes, you heard that right: it comes with a tail.)
You can view the Clothbot prototype in action in the following video:
The video doesn't look too awkward for this particular person being climbed, but what would happen if Clothbot ascended along your inner thigh? Yikes. Eerily enough, its Chinese inventors also proposed a third possible application for the device: body inspection. As if airport inspections haven't already gotten bad enough.
All joking aside, however, there are some practical and less-creepy potentials for this technology too. Most notably, an autonomous, hands-free device like the Clothbot could assist disabled people, amputees or paraplegics in talking on their phones.
Since it only weighs about 140 grams, Clothbot isn't a major burden to carry. The prototype was featured at this year's IEEE International Conference on Robotics and Automation.