Squishy, 3D-printed ‘octobot’ is world’s first autonomous, untethered soft robot

Robots, by their nature, are rigid. They require actuators, logic boards, and other rigid components to operate. It’s this reliance on hardware and electronics that makes Harvard’s Octobot soft robot so fascinating. When creating Octobot, the engineering team was able to replace all the hardware and rigid parts with soft components that function together to create a completely soft, autonomous machine.

The octopus long has been a source of inspiration and innovation for those in the field of soft robotics. The sea creature is able to move deftly and is incredibly strong even though it does not have an internal skeleton. To replicate this soft-bodied animal, the team at Harvard had to think outside the box and experiment with 3D-printing, soft lithography, and molding, when replacing the rigid parts of the robot with analogous soft pieces. Not only did they create a completely soft robot, but the team also developed the Octobot to be autonomous, completely untethered from external controls.

The engineers relied on the chemistry of hydrogen peroxide and platinum to develop a pneumatic (gas)-powered propulsion system. A controlled reaction inside the robot converts liquid hydrogen peroxide into a gas that inflates the robot’s arms like a balloon. As the arms inflate and deflate, the octopus is able to move its limbs in and out at a slow pace to simulate crawling. This chemical reaction was controlled using a microfluidic logic circuit board pioneered by chemist George Whitesides of the Wyss Institute for Biologically Inspired Engineering at Harvard University.

This research is the first step in the development of more sophisticated soft robots capable of crawling, swimming and interacting with the environment in other ways. “This research is a proof of concept,” said graduate student Ryan Truby, who worked under lead researcher Jennifer A. Lewis of Harvard’s John A. Paulson School of Engineering and Applied Sciences (SEAS). “We hope that our approach for creating autonomous soft robots inspires roboticists, material scientists and researchers focused on advanced manufacturing.”

Cars

Formula 1 is putting data in the driver’s seat, and not all racers are happy

After a single weekend of racing, a Formula 1 pit crew typically pulls around 2TB of data from the car. Everything, from tire pressure to the temperature of the track, is recorded and analyzed in the name of boosting performance -- and not…
News

Browse safely and securely with Opera’s unlimited VPN on Android

Opera has added a new VPN to its Android browser, offering an easy way to keep your privacy and data locked up solid, and with no limits on usage or cost, you can keep it on all the time.
Gaming

Here’s all the news from the Google Stadia GDC presentation

Google announced its new game streaming service Stadia during GDC 2019. Here is all the news from the event, including news on YouTube streaming and quickly accessing your favorite new games.
Outdoors

Yamaha’s Wabash ebike takes on gravel, single track, and more

The Wabash gravel ebike from Yamaha gives riders a versatile and powerful option for riding trails, pavement, mud, sand, dirt, and more, with plenty of range and power for all-day adventures.
Business

British Airways’ new Club Suite for business class comes with a door

British Airways is going after a bigger slice of the business class market with the imminent launch of the Club Suite. The plush seating option offers a more private space as well as an easier route to the bathroom.
Smart Home

Sony’s Aibo robot dog can now patrol your home for persons of interest

Sony released the all-new Aibo in the U.S. around nine months ago, and since then the robot dog has (hopefully) been melting owners' hearts with its cute looks and clever tricks. Now it has a new one up its sleeve.
Emerging Tech

The U.S. Army is building a giant VR battlefield to train soldiers virtually

Imagine if the U.S. Army was able to rehearse battlezone scenarios dozens, or even hundreds, or times before settling foot on actual terrain. Thanks to virtual reality, that's now a possibility.
Emerging Tech

Inflating smart pills could be a painless alternative to injections

Could an inflating pill containing hidden microneedles replace painful injections? The creators of the RaniPill robotic capsule think so — and they have the human trials to prove it.
Emerging Tech

A silver bullet is being aimed at the drug-resistant superbugs on the ISS

A bacteria which is benign here on Earth can mutate into a drug-resistant superbug once it enters space. Now this problem is being tackled by a team of microbiologists who have found a way to inhibit the spread of bacteria in the ISS.
Emerging Tech

Tombot is the hyper-realistic dog robot that puts Spot to shame

Forget Boston Dynamics’ Spot! When it comes to robot dogs, the folks behind a new Kickstarter campaign have plans to stake their claim as makers of man’s (and woman’s) newest best friend.
Emerging Tech

Researchers gave alligators headphones and ketamine, and all for a good cause

Researchers in Germany and the United States recently gave ketamine and earphones to alligators to monitor how they process sounds. Here's what it reveals about alligator evolution.
Emerging Tech

Cheese tastes different when it listens to Led Zeppelin, Swiss study finds

A funky new study says that exposing cheese to music changes its aroma and flavor. What’s more, the genre of music matters. Researchers from the Bern University of Arts played music to nine, 22-pound wheels of Emmental cheese.
Emerging Tech

Astronomers plan to beam Earth’s greatest hits into deep space, and you can help

A new project from the SETI Institute (search for extraterrestrial intelligence) will give the public the chance to submit compositions to be beamed into space, with the aim of connecting people around the world through music.
Emerging Tech

Twitter is officially a teenager now. Are we raising a monster?

On March 21, 2006, Jack Dorsey sent the first ever tweet. Thirteen years later, Twitter has fundamentally changed the way we communicate. Here are some of the myriad ways it's done that.