/Soft robots for all

Soft robots for all

Futurizonte Editor’s Note: Soft robots are now a reality. And they keep getting better and better, according to the article.

The soft ring oscillator shows its resiliency in a high-strain deformation test. Source: Harvard

Original author and publication date: Harvard University – June 26, 2019

Summary: A new invention gives soft robots the ability to roll, undulate, sort, meter liquids, and swallow. Customizable designs could find use in labs, hospitals, and even inside the human body.

Soft robots can’t always compete with the hard. Their rigid brethren dominate assembly lines, perform backflips, dance to Bruno Mars’ “Uptown Funk,” fly, dive, and walk through volcanoes.

But each year, soft robots gain new abilities. They’ve learned to jump, squirm, and grip. And, unlike hard robots, they can handle tomatoes without bruising the fruit, resurface unscathed after being run over by a car, and journey through radiation, disaster zones, and outer-space with few scars. For people and animals, they have a “cooperative function”: a soft touch.

Recently, researchers in the lab of George M. Whitesides, the Woodford L. and Ann A. Flowers University Professor, have invented soft replacements for the last hard parts required to build a robot. Instead of electricity and wires, pressurized air expands and contracts rubber inflatables to create movement, soft valves take over for the hard, and soft digital logic replicates the same capabilities of an electronic computer.

Now, postdoctoral scholar Daniel J. Preston’s latest soft invention gives these robots new, complex movements. As first author on a study published in Science Robotics, he introduces the first soft ring oscillator, which gives soft robots the ability to roll, undulate, sort, meter liquids, and swallow.

“It’s another tool in the toolkit to make these smart, soft robots without any electronics, and without any hard valves,” Preston says.

READ the complete original article here.