November 22, 2011 AT 9:55 am

Inflatable Robots

Pt 169

Travis writes

I’m really excited about inflatable robots… they have the potential to be low-cost, lightweight, extremely powerful, and yet “human safe” — ie. perfect for many robotics applications.  With that in mind, I would like to introduce you to two new (breakout) inflatable robots: a 15-foot-long walking robot (a Pneubot named Ant-Roach) and a complete, inflatable robot arm (plus hand).  Both of these robots were developed by Otherlab as part of their “pneubotics” project (in collaboration with Meka Robotics and Manu Prakash at Stanford University), with some funding from DARPA’s Maximum Mobility and Manipulation (M3) program.    These robots use textile-based, inflatable actuators that contract upon inflation into specially-designed shapes to effect motion.   Since these robots are built out of lightweight fabric-and-air structural members and powered via pneumatics or hydraulics, they exhibit large strength-to-weight ratios.  For example, Ant-Roach is less than 70 lbs and can probably support up to 1000 lbs; the inflatable robot arm is less than 2 lbs and can lift a few hundred pounds at 50-60 psi.  Be sure to read on for details and lots of videos!

Read more.


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3 Comments

  1. Where fiction becomes reality.

    Sluggy Freelance’s Dr Schlock is famous in the strip for the invention of inflatable technology with his diggerbots, et. al.

    Now if they can recreate those inflatable sky scooters!

  2. I am curious to know if the weight includes the power source, controller(s), compressor/compressed air cylinder, solenoid valve manifold, and associated tubing. Sure, the inflatable part is light, but I’ll bet all that other stuff makes the thing pretty heavy in comparison to more conventional systems.

    Of course, I could be wrong.

  3. Well, it’s a little buried in the "Read More" link, but it does say the arm that weighs 2 lbs does NOT include the things I mentioned. I’m not saying it isn’t viable, and a pretty good start on interesting technology, I’m just saying it’s a bit deceiving to say it’s only 2 lbs.

    Feedback might be possible with flexible touch-sensor stuff, like the flexible keyboards are using, or maybe use pressure sensors to detect the degree of flexion in each segment. It would be a lot of data to process, but that stuff is cheaper, smaller, and lighter all the time. . .

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