This Little Pink Robot Is Tougher Than You

They may not all look like a friendly housekeeper from "The Jetsons", but today, robots are all around us. Now, with different appearances and crafted from new materials, they've gotten tougher.

A recent report from Science Daily explains one interesting example. A new robot created at Harvard has some of the usual desired traits: it can walk around untethered, on command from its masters. However, this 'bot is a bit badass: it can walk through snow, withstand fire, endure submergence, and even get crunched under the wheels of a car while maintaining its mission.

Developed at Harvard's School for Engineering and Applied Sciences and the Wyss Institute for Biologically Inspired Engineering, the robot carries all of its control systems, micro-compressors, and batteries on its back, and is a leap forward in "soft-robot" technology. Its creator challenged the conventions of what robots usually look like, and came up with some successful results.

Research associate Michael Tolley said, "We think the reason people have settled on using metal and rigid materials for robots is because they're easier to model and control. This work is very inspired by nature, and we wanted to demonstrate that soft materials can also be the basis for robots."

The robot is over a half meter in length and can carry about 7.5 pounds. It was made from a composite silicone rubber (a blend of stiff rubber infused with hollow glass microspheres) as well as a Kevlar fabric bottom. These elements made the robot both tough and lightweight.

Future iterations will include faster speed and an array of sensors, which could be useful if the robot were to operate in disaster situations in lieu of more fragile human rescuers. It could also feasibly be put to work in an industrial environment, where it would not be as imposing as larger manufacturing robots and hence safer and more interactive for human co-workers.

Hey, it's kinda cute. Maybe someday you could even own a soft-robot pet! Just don't call it "soft" once its sensors can identify words. Your butt isn't as tough as the one suited up with Kevlar.

Yes, but can it shred moguls on the ski slopes?



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