Soft Robot Creepily Crawls, Fits Into Tiny Spaces
Kill it. Kill it with murder.
I’m not one to pour derision on any sort of scientific or technological advancement. In fact, one of the best parts of my day is when I come across something that makes me say “wow,” “awesome,” or simply “whoa.” You know, things like quantum levitation, jetpacks, and virtual reality displays.
But my long-running suspicion of robots has been pretty well-documented. Every little invention – every cool looking robotic breakthrough is just one step closer to the robot apocalypse. And if the robot apocalypse is what takes us all out, that means that there won’t be a chance to experience the zombie apocalypse – a thought that really grinds my gears.
But I digress. This impressive concept of soft robotics comes to us from George M. Whitesides’ Research Group at Harvard. Demonstrated is a skeleton-less robot operated by low pressures of air (<10 psi) which is pumped in and out of the elastomeric polymer materials that make up the limbs. Here is the concept more thoroughly explained in the PNAS magazine:
A soft robot, composed exclusively of soft materials (elastomeric polymers), which is inspired by animals (e.g., squid, starfish, worms) that do not have hard internal skeletons. Soft lithography was used to fabricate a pneumatically actuated robot capable of sophisticated locomotion (e.g., fluid movement of limbs and multiple gaits). This robot is quadrupedal; it uses no sensors, only five actuators, and a simple pneumatic valving system that operates at low pressures (< 10 psi). A combination of crawling and undulation gaits allowed this robot to navigate a difficult obstacle. This demonstration illustrates an advantage of soft robotics: They are systems in which simple types of actuation produce complex motion.
Check out all of that “crawling” and “undulation” in the video below:
The top YouTube comments for the video is simply, “Someone pass me the crowbar.” Unfortunately, I doubt that would stop it – it’s just elastic materials and air.
Want to give yourself a challenge? Imagine this technology somehow paired with the technology represented in the first video here. Now, try to sleep.