To make human- and robot-kind more compatible, researchers have begun to develop machines with soft, deformable parts instead of hard ones. The promise of these squishy bots is twofold: They could operate more safely around other squishy objects—like us, for example. More important, their malleability makes them versatile enough to interact with a variety of objects (credit cards, dog food, coffee cups) without becoming astronomically expensive. Barry Trimmer, of Tufts University, is editor-in-chief of the field's first dedicated journal, Soft Robotics, which launched in November. "You want precision in the factory, but in the real world, a lack of precision actually helps," he says. "Soft materials let you automatically deal with your environment."