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Aug 25 2017 - 08:00 PM
A Shape-Shifting Robot Inspired by Nature

Inspired by the movement patterns in pollen tubes, researchers have created a soft tendrel-like robot that expands to move through its environment. Much like the pollen tubes and neurons that inspired the design of this robot, the body of this unique bot lengthens to move through obstacles in its environment. This design currently only has one tendrel but researchers hope to add the branching abilities they observed in pollen tubes and neurons to extend the ability of this robot.

Not only can this soft robot move quickly through tight spaces but it can lengthen its body by 2,500%! The robot expands its thin plastic exterior with the use of a pneumatic pump inside. It can also steer and form itself into 3D shapes like a hook. Given its ability to move through tricky environments, this robot could be used in the future to fight fires or assist with search and rescue operations.

Besides the turning valves, what other uses can you imagine for this type of robot? Tell us what uses you could imagine for this soft robot in the ongoing discussion on Vialogues.

Excerpts from the discussion

@01:19 Caitlin Davey: As this robot is very flexible I can see it moving through tight spaces to complete tasks that would otherwise be very difficult or dangerous for humans.

@01:54 RuthS: When I was a kid, robots were conceived of as just big, boxy contraptions with bug eyes and synthesized voices. Now, they can increasingly take on new shapes and tasks. They're becoming ubiquitous in our society, and I wonder how that will shape humans in the future.

|By: Caitlin Davey|754 Reads