Harvard team eliminates last hard component from soft robots

Tuesday, April 2, 2019 - 11:50 in Biology & Nature

A soft robot, attached to a balloon and submerged in a column of water, dives and surfaces, dives and surfaces, like a fish chasing flies. Soft robots have performed this kind of trick before. But unlike most soft robots, this one is made and operated with no hard or electronic parts. Inside, a soft, rubber computer tells the balloon when to ascend or descend. For the first time, this robot relies exclusively on soft digital logic. In the past decade, soft materials have surged into the metal-dominant world of robotics. Grippers made from rubbery silicones are already used in assembly lines: Cushioned claws handle delicate fruit and vegetables like tomatoes and broccoli, or extract bottles and sweaters from crates. In laboratories, the grippers can pick up slippery fish, live mice, and even insects, lessening the need for human interaction. Soft robots already require simpler control systems than their hard counterparts. The grippers...

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