p A team of engineers at the University of California San Diego have applied the biologically inspired principles of soft robotics in order to develop a robot capable of navigating uneven terrain like rocks and sand.
The soft and pliable materials mean the robot’s four legs are capable of conforming to their surrounds, so its on-board sensors don’t need a precise picture of the ground in traverse it.
If the system encounters an uneven spot, it can simply adapt its gait.
The robot’s four legs are a combination of hard and soft printed parts, relying on a bladder-based system of expanding and contracting rubber chambers that propel its movement.
It’s a system that’s similar to soft robotics projects, before it, including, a number of machines developed by George Whitesides’ robotics lab in Harvard, which has helped pioneer robots inspired by sea creatures like octopi and squid.
UCSD assistant professor Mike Tolley, who headed up the new research, is a veteran of that Harvard lab, having worked on one of its more notable projects, an untethered X-shaped robot capable of squeezing into tight spaces, thanks to its almost entirely soft body.