Advances in soft robotics may someday enable robots to work alongside humans, assisting them in lifting heavy objects or carrying them out of disasters. As a leap toward that future, Stanford University researchers have developed a brand new delicate robot that, by borrowing options from traditional robotics, is safe while nonetheless retaining the ability to maneuver and change form.
From the starting point, the researchers ended up with a human-scale soft robot that can change its form, allowing it to grab and handle objects and roll in controllable directions. Their invention is described in a paper featured on March 18 in Science Robotics.
The simplest version of this delicate robot is an inflated tube that runs via three small machines that pinch it into a triangle form. One machine holds the two ends of the tube together; the other two drive along the tube, altering the overall form of the robot by shifting its corners. The researchers call it an “isoperimetric robot” as a result of, although the shape modifications dramatically, the whole length of the edges—and the amount of air inside—stays the identical.
The isoperimetric robot is a descendent of three robots: delicate robots, truss robots and collective robots. Soft robots are lightweight and compliant; truss robots have geometric shapes that can change form. Collective robots are small robots that work together, making them notably strong in the face of single-part failures.