Meet Octobot: World's First Entirely Soft Autonomous Robot

Posted: Aug 25 2016, 6:28am CDT | by , Updated: Aug 25 2016, 6:30am CDT, in News | Latest Science News


Meet Octobot: World's First Entirely Soft Autonomous Robot
  • Harvard’s First 3D Octobot functions without any Electronic Circuits
  • Powered by a chemical reaction controlled by microfluidics

Apparently, Harvard’s first 3D-printed octobot functions without any electronic circuits.

The experts at Harvard University have managed to build a 3D printed, soft robot termed the octobot. It is a marvel of mechanical engineering and microfluidics.

The amazing thing is that not only is it autonomous in its nature but it does not need support systems either. This is the first bold step in a new direction. Such soft robotics changes the man-machine interface.

Usually electric and electronic circuits make a robot rigid in its habits. So scientists have built this soft-bodied robot which defies the imagination with its ingenuity.

 Building robots which are totally soft has been a dream of mankind. The substitution of rigid components such as electronic and control circuits has been the biggest obstacle to this fantasy.

It is a labor of synthesizing so many strands that makes the job a tough one to accomplish. Yet finally we have what we want. It took some effort and elbow grease but nevertheless the task was finished with a flourish.

Now novel designs with built-in complexity can be added into the inventory for the future. The research regarding all this was published in a journal. 

Via a hybrid assembly method, all the components of the robot were printed in three dimensions. These included: fuel tank, power supply and actuating mechanism.

This was all done in a brisk manner. The octobot is simple enough from all appearances yet a lot of complexity went into its makeup. The octopus has always been envied in the field of AI.

It has served as an ideal creature that has cunning and cleverness built into its very nature. To make soft robots that copy an octopus is a remarkable achievement. The fact that the octopus has no internal skeleton makes it a curious creature.  

“One long-standing vision for the field of soft robotics has been to create robots that are entirely soft, but the struggle has always been in replacing rigid components like batteries and electronic controls with analogous soft systems and then putting it all together,” said Robert Wood, the Charles River Professor of Engineering and Applied Sciences.

“This research demonstrates that we can easily manufacture the key components of a simple, entirely soft robot, which lays the foundation for more complex designs.”

The research is published in the journal Nature.

“Through our hybrid assembly approach, we were able to 3D print each of the functional components required within the soft robot body, including the fuel storage, power and actuation, in a rapid manner,” said Jennifer A. Lewis, the Hansjorg Wyss Professor of Biologically Inspired Engineering at the Harvard John A. Paulson School of Engineering and Applied Sciences (SEAS).

“The octobot is a simple embodiment designed to demonstrate our integrated design and additive fabrication strategy for embedding autonomous functionality.”

Robert Wood and Jennifer A. Lewis led the research.

Harvard’s octobot is pneumatic in nature. It employs gas under pressure for its purposes. Hydrogen peroxide is utilized as a fuel source and propellant.

When it becomes a gas, it causes the arms of the octobot to swell like balloons and locomotion is thus possible. The hydrogen peroxide is a chemical that reacts with a catalyst which is found in the form of platinum. A microfluidic logic circuit is used in the setup.

“The entire system is simple to fabricate, by combining three fabrication methods — soft lithography, molding and 3D printing — we can quickly manufacture these devices,” said Ryan Truby, a graduate student in the Lewis lab and co-first author of the paper.

The simplicity of the process can be gauged in hindsight. Yet getting there was a backbreaking endeavor. If this approach is taken even further, with the passage of time, miracles in the science of AI could take place.  

“This research is a proof of concept,” Truby said. “We hope that our approach for creating autonomous soft robots inspires roboticists, material scientists and researchers focused on advanced manufacturing.”

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<a href="/latest_stories/all/all/20" rel="author">Sumayah Aamir</a>
Sumayah Aamir (Google+) has deep experience in analyzing the latest trends.




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