Engineers at UC Riverside have unveiled an air-powered computer memory that can be used to control soft robots. The innovation overcomes one of the biggest obstacles to advancing soft robotics: the fundamental mismatch between pneumatics and electronics. The work is published in the open-access journal, PLOS One.
Pneumatic soft robots use pressurized air to move soft, rubbery limbs and grippers and are superior to traditional rigid robots for performing delicate tasks. They are also safer for humans to be around. Baymax, the healthcare companion robot in the 2014 animated Disney film, Big Hero 6, is a pneumatic robot for good reason.
But existing systems for controlling pneumatic soft robots still use electronic valves and computers to maintain the position of the robot’s moving parts. These electronic parts add considerable cost, size, and power demands to soft robots, limiting their feasibility.
To advance soft robotics toward the future, a team