For years roboticists have been looking into using softer materials for parts rather than the usual metal and plastic — sometimes even building entirely soft robots. But this Octobot from Harvard is the first that not only contains no hard parts but is also entirely autonomous.
Robert Wood and Jennifer Lewis, both at the Wyss Institute for Biologically Inspired Engineering, describe the Octobot in a paper published today in Nature. The creation won’t be winning any awards for agility, but given that autonomy is generally created by a computer governing a robot’s movements, this is a significant milestone.
“The struggle has always been in replacing rigid components like batteries and electronic controls with analogous soft systems and then putting it all together,” explained Wood in the Harvard news release. “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.”