Soft, Flexible, Squishy Robots
R2D2-like and Baxter-Style Robots may be suitable for welding rivets or working on an airplane fuselage, but such robots are far from ideal for working with soft human tissue and delicate items. Delicate robotic work requires something with flexible arms like that of an octopus. That future is on the horizon.
Nature Magazine says Meet the Soft, Cuddly Robots of the Future
Scientists and engineers in the field have long worked on hard-bodied robots, often inspired by humans and other animals with hard skeletons. These machines have the virtue of moving in mathematically predictable ways, with rigid limbs that can bend and straighten only around fixed joints. But they also require meticulous programming and extensive feedback to avoid smacking into things; even then, their motions often become erratic or even dangerous when dealing with humans, new objects, bumpy terrain or other unpredictable situations.
Robots inspired by flexible creatures such as octopuses, caterpillars or fish offer a solution. Instead of requiring intensive (and often imperfect) computations, soft robots built of mostly pliable or elastic materials can just mould themselves to their surroundings. Although some of these machines use wires or springs to mimic muscles and tendons, as a group, soft robots have ditched the skeletons that defined previous robot generations. With nothing resembling bones or joints, these machines can stretch, twist, scrunch and squish in completely new ways. They can transform in shape or size, wrap around objects and even touch people more safely than ever before.
Although most soft robots remain in the lab, some of Whitesides’ creations are venturing out to feed industrial demand for adept robotic hands. Conventional grippers require detailed information about factors such as an object’s location, shape, weight and slipperiness to move each of its joints correctly. One system may be specialized for handling shampoo bottles, whereas another picks up only children’s toys, and yet another is needed for grabbing T-shirts. But as manufacturers update their product lines, and as e-commerce warehouses handle a growing variety of objects, these companies need to swap in customized grippers and updated control algorithms for each different use — often at great cost and delay.
By contrast, grippers that are made mainly of soft, stretchy materials can envelop and conform to objects of different shapes and sizes. Soft Robotics, a start-up company in Cambridge, Massachussetts, that spun out of Whitesides’ research in 2013, has raised some US$4.5 million to develop a line of rubbery robotic claws. “We use no force sensors, no feedback systems and we don’t do a lot of planning,” says the company’s chief executive, Carl Vause. “We just go and grab an object”, squeezing until the grip is secure.
Octopus Robot Video
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There’s much more in the article so give it a look. Meanwhile, I offer this musical tribute.
Link if video does not play: Ringo Starr – Octopus’s Garden (Beatles) (live 2005)
Mike “Mish” Shedlock
I wouldn’t mind having robots for law enforcement and defense – provided that they were non-lethal and could only capture criminals and enemy soldiers without killing them. I am bringing this up because DoD has other (worrying) ideas about robot technology.
Then we’d have to keep them forever and give them “constitutional rights” in spite of not being American citizens or on American soil. Not even American citizens get rights any more.
I prefer lethal robots.
You think they are only going to be used on non-American citizens? That’s very optimistic of you.
Diogenes of Sinope said:
“There’s no way out of here, when you come in you’re in for good.”
~ D. Gilmour
Every freedom and liberty we lose is complemented by another efficiency, convenience, technology. As our lives “improve” we also become more dependent on or conveniences. These conveniences are not some gift from heaven but a commodity SOLD us at the cost of our liberty, our ability to exist without them. I am not above all this as I am a full participant. But I can’t help but wonder as I follow the trail of free corn laying on the ground, at what point will the cage door slam shut behind me, at what point will the “processor” come to collect on their investments.
But on the other hand it is all inevitable and not really worth mentioning. Maybe I will download some more convenience apps for my smart phone.
I have always wanted a robot, a girl robot.
I really miss the headline links to the articles of others from the old site. The all-white background is too plain, and blinding.
You are the only one that I have seen to complain about white. In Emails and comments -at least the ones I have read – overwhelmingly liked the new uncluttered format. A few people asked about the feeds -they are at the bottom of the full article pages. On a dark blue background.
Too dark perhaps?
Actually, that blue looks rather neonish to me. Mute it(darker or lighter), and it would be more visible.
But I do agree that the plainness is rather a shock in coparison to the older look. Might just take some of us a bit longer to get used to it.
The fonts in the Comments section are a bit too small.
I will look into font size on comments
1. To better separate controls from content, you might provide a cool background color that either matches or complements the page’s footer background color for the the top links (“Home”, “Advertising”, etc), the banner “MishTalk ~ Mish’s Global Economic Trend Analysis” and the search bar.
2. Move the “About Mish” block to the top of the right column (where the “Subscribe via Email” block is now).
3. The “Get Mish” block apparently pushes the content in the center column down the page, either push the center column content up or move the “Get Mish” block to the right column.
4. I prefer the current article on the main page. Though commonly done, I find a teaser paragraph followed by a link to the article annoying.
Keep up the good work & Best wishes
Will take under consideration
Sal Moanella said:
lol I thought this was a post debate rubio article…
General comment about feed setup. I normally read posts via Feedly and originally I was able to read full posts but now it shows as one line and link to website. I really like to read your blog but visiting site for each post is not realistic. Please improve it.
OMG, just think of the possibilities in the sex toy and porn industries!
As quoted from the article:
“By contrast, grippers that are made mainly of soft, stretchy materials can envelop and conform to objects of different shapes and sizes.” and “We use no force sensors, no feedback systems and we don’t do a lot of planning,” says the company’s chief executive, Carl Vause. “We just go and grab an object”, squeezing until the grip is secure.”
Seems to be equal opportunity for both sexes!
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Thank you for this review, it is very useful information.