Month: December 2020

Engineers Create Free-Roaming, Shape-Shifting Robot

Are you an engineer who’s looking for inspiration for your latest project?  

Stanford University Engineers recently created a groundbreaking invention that might be just what you need to get your creative juices flowing.  Their free-roaming, shape-shifting robot is a significant step in the ever-evolving robotics industry and a dream come true for many engineers. I mean, who doesn’t love robots — right?

In the past, robots have typically needed an outside source to latch onto while moving. This new robot moves, flips, turns and bends in many unique and innovative ways. If you love robots, you're in for a real treat. 

Keep reading to learn how this robot works.

A New Type of Robot

Stanford University’s new robot combines traditional and soft robotics, making it safe to operate and durable. Once it's inflated, it can change shape and move without air or energy. 

To pull this off, they used a combination of many robots and called it an “isoperimetric robot” because even though it’s shape changes drastically, the amount of air inside always stays the same.

The three types of robots they used to create this new type of robot were:

  • Soft robots
  • Truss robots
  • Collective robots

In an interview for Science Robotics, graduate student Nathan Usevitch describes the robot’s appearance by saying, “The casual description of this robot that I give people is Baymax from the movie ‘Big Hero 6’ mixed with Transformers. In other words, a soft, human-safe robot mixed with robots that can dramatically change their shape.”

What Makes Their Robot So Unique

A significant limitation with most soft robots is having to attach bulky air compressors to them that you have to plug into an outlet. These bulky air compressors restrict the robot’s movements making their use limited. Because of this, Stanford University engineers wondered about keeping the same amount of air in the robot at all times to avoid the need for air compressors.

This thought resulted in a human-scale soft robot that can change its shape, as well as grab and handle objects while rolling in controllable directions. 

The assistant professor of mechanical engineering, Sean Follmer, says. “We’re basically manipulating a soft structure with traditional motors. It makes for a really interesting class of robots that combines many of the benefits of soft robots with all of the knowledge we have about more classic robots.”

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