Harvard Scientists Develop $5 Rubber Robot
This may not look like the future of robots that we were promised from movies like Star Wars and Star Trek, but according to scientists at Harvard University and other leading researchers in the robotics field, flexible robots are the future.
They offer the ability to adapt to situations and go places that a standard model would be unable to navigate based on size restrictions. According to Matthew Walter, a roboticist at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, “The unique ability for soft robots to deform allows them to go places that traditional rigid-body robots cannot.”
This “unique ability” is what inspired the Harvard team, led by chemist George M. Whitesides, to create a robot based on movements borrowed from squids, starfish and other animals without hard skeletons that lead to a soft robot with a material cost of about $5, according to Robert Shepherd, a Harvard research team member and idea co-creator.
Besides from being relatively inexpensive, these soft robots offer endless possibilities for use in a variety of fields like exploration and rescue. Since the motion is controlled by compressed air flowing into the soft robot, it has some limitations, but I expect those to diminish as research goes on.
“They’ve used a clever system of chambers and shapes, and when you apply pressure, you get the robot to move in predictable ways,” says Barry Trimmer, who’s developing soft robotics at Tufts University.