Soft robots are coming a long way, with strong yet stretchy bodies that can survive all kinds of assaults. But it would be even better if they didn't have to survive smashing attempts at all, instead blending into their environments so neither animals nor people would even know they were there. Researchers at Harvard designed new chameleon-bots that can do exactly that.
Soft, bendy robots could have a wide variety of benefits, from squishing into tight spaces to conduct surveillance, to crawling through a person's body to deliver drugs or take medical images. But it's hard to build entirely soft objects containing soft bodies, soft batteries and soft motors.
A creepy new pulsating robot can ooze across a surface and pick its own path autonomously, using feedback from its ooze controls without requiring a smart command center. It’s modeled after slime mold, which can also make decisions without any sort of neural network.
Soft robots would be useful for a variety of things — they could grip objects with precision and sensitivity, and they could roll along more quietly than their counterparts with metal exoskeletons. Here is a new one that could do such tasks purely on its own, without any external power source or command center.
By Barry Trimmer, as told to Flora Lichtman
Posted 07.25.2011 at 10:27 am 1 Comment
I make robots that are soft and floppy. If you can change your shape, you can go anywhere—you can squeeze through small holes in a rubble field and navigate unstructured terrain like forests. The problem is that if you’re soft, you’re slow, because when you push against something, your body deforms rather than creating forward motion. So we looked to the caterpillar as a model.
Five amazing, clean technologies that will set us free, in this month's energy-focused issue. Also: how to build a better bomb detector, the robotic toys that are raising your children, a human catapult, the world's smallest arcade, and much more.