Innovation

5 things to know about soft robotics

From search and rescue to self-repair, soft robotics is paving the way for safer, more flexible robots that can make lots of applications possible.

Robots are hard Terminator style collections of pistons, right?

Not anymore. Soft robotics is paving the way for safer, more flexible robots that can make lots of applications possible.

SEE: Hiring kit: Robotics engineer (Tech Pro Research)

Here are five things to know about soft robotics.

  1. It doesn't mean pillows. Soft robotics means joints aren't rigid. This not only allows them to handle delicate or thin objects but also, soft robots can handle irregularly-shaped objects, squeeze into tight spaces, and recover from collisions faster.
  2. Search and rescue. Because of the ability to squeeze into tight spaces while also handling things delicately, soft robotics provide another tool for emergency services. For instance, a robot called CRAM (Compressible Robot and Articulated Mechanisms) mimics a cockroach's ability to squeeze through the cracks.
  3. Medicine. From soft exosuits to help rehab patients to more flexible Minimally Invasive Surgery tools, soft robots have multiple applications in healthcare. For instance, the STIFF-FLOP manipulator promises high dexterity and selective stiffness to improve on traditional endoscopes.
  4. Self-repair. Self-healing polymers provide a possible solution to one of the biggest holdups to soft robotics, which is durability.
  5. They're safer to work around. Robotics in industrial applications often need to be separated from workers, because the rigid parts can be dangerous when we do something the robot didn't expect and BOOM collision. Soft robotics can work more safely alongside us unpredictable humans.

Hope that helps you understand the softer side of robotics.

They speak robotically but carry a soft, articulated stick.

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About Tom Merritt

Tom is an award-winning independent tech podcaster and host of regular tech news and information shows. Tom hosts Sword and Laser, a science fiction and fantasy podcast, and book club with Veronica Belmont. He also hosts Daily Tech News Show, coverin...

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