Bug-like robots from Google may soon crawl on your phone

While software bugs are definitely something to get rid of, Google intends to put “hardware bugs” on your smartphones and tablets.

Only that these are, quite literally, bug-like devices designed to crawl over the touchscreen.

But why? According to this newly published patent, these bug-like robots are intended to scan the image displayed on the touchscreen and convey the image’s features to visually impaired users through a voice based system.


To this end, these bug-like robots are equipped with a camera that faces towards the touchscreen and is designed to detect visual features such as lines, colors and patterns.

All that a user is required to do is place these robots onto the touchscreen at a predefined spot such as the corner of the screen. The robots being completely autonomous, then move over the display screen scanning and detecting the visual features.


For example, when a map is displayed, these robots can detect and follow a particular line on the map representing a route. While the robots are moving, the user may place a finger on the robot and receive a haptic feedback in the form of vibrations when the robot is near a landmark. Along with the vibration, the name of the location where the robot is may be played over a loud speaker. This allows a user to build a mental map of a place by interacting with the robots.

A similar robot moving on touchscreen - Image Credit: Fast Company
A similar robot moving on touchscreen – Image Credit: Fast Company

Although targeted towards blind users, others who just want a new way of interacting with their touchscreens may also look forward to touching these “bugs”.

Patent Information
Publication number: US 9,372,095
Patent Title: Mobile robots moving on a visual display
Publication date: Jun 21, 2016
Filing date: May 8, 2014
Inventors: Charles L. Chen; Tiruvilwamalai Venkatram Raman;
Original Assignee: Google Inc.