Here’s some fuel for your nightmares: Australian researchers have built a robot whose entire purpose is to stab things with knives.
As TechCrunch spotted, forensic scientists and engineers at the University of Technology Sydney recently created a “stabbing machine” to study the way knives tear through clothing and other textiles.
The idea is that the robot can simulate the same stabbing motions as a violent criminal, allowing forensics experts to study how different types of knives, angles, penetration speeds, and other factors affect fabric, as they write in Forensic Science International.
Knives rip through fabric in very specific ways depending on these factors, so when someone gets attacked with a knife, their clothes can reveal a lot about the crime. But while forensics experts can manually stand around in a lab and stab at fabrics themselves, human error is inevitable. Herein lies the beauty of the stabbing machine. It always performs the same motions perfectly, reducing the extraneous information that a person might introduce while trying to copy someone else’s stab patterns.
The machine has 60 different stab positions. It can test out several different types of knife handles, since the knives are secured to the robot with a clamp. The researchers tested the machine out with four different knife designs, analyzing how each knife tore through the fabric.
The machine was capable of making the same motions repeatedly, wielding the knives more consistently than any human could. While stabbing machines like this already exist, this one is more variable than others, allowing researchers to test more potential angles. Eventually, these researchers want to create a systematic appendix of textile responses to blades, putting together reference data on how certain knife characteristics can be seen in ripped fabrics.
However, while the machine proved very accurate in the tests, it was not very forceful. As Popular Science notes, the machine’s stabbing motions were only about as forceful as a human bite. To study crimes, it might help to have a machine that can jab someone with a knife as forcefully as an angry human could.
All images courtesy Benson et al., Forensic Science International (2017)