- Award ID(s):
- Publication Date:
- NSF-PAR ID:
- Journal Name:
- Proceedings of the IEEERSJ International Conference on Intelligent Robots and Systems
- Sponsoring Org:
- National Science Foundation
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For robots to be useful for real-world applications, they must be safe around humans, be adaptable to their environment, and operate in an untethered manner. Soft robots could potentially meet these requirements; however, existing soft robotic architectures are limited by their ability to scale to human sizes and operate at these scales without a tether to transmit power or pressurized air from an external source. Here, we report an untethered, inflated robotic truss, composed of thin-walled inflatable tubes, capable of shape change by continuously relocating its joints, while its total edge length remains constant. Specifically, a set of identical roller modules each pinch the tube to create an effective joint that separates two edges, and modules can be connected to form complex structures. Driving a roller module along a tube changes the overall shape, lengthening one edge and shortening another, while the total edge length and hence fluid volume remain constant. This isoperimetric behavior allows the robot to operate without compressing air or requiring a tether. Our concept brings together advantages from three distinct types of robots—soft, collective, and truss-based—while overcoming certain limitations of each. Our robots are robust and safe, like soft robots, but not limited by a tether;more »
Many soft robots are capable of significantly changing their shape, an ability that can offer advantages in many applications. For instance, such a robot can flatten its body to fit under small gaps and expand to move over large obstacles. Further, because these shape changes are usually driven by a pressurized fluid, if they act over a large area, they have the potential to apply large forces to the world. However, when these same shape changes are used for the locomotion of an untethered robot, they tend to result in slow forward movement. Here we present a hybrid soft-rigid elongated-sphere robot that decouples shape change from locomotion. Pairing a compliant, inflatable outer skin, which changes volume by 15x to both fit under and roll over obstacles and can lift objects up to 30 kg, with a wheeled internal carriage, we obtain relatively fast locomotion. A new two-sided controllable adhesive between the internal carriage and the skin enables the carriage to climb vertically inside the skin, allowing the robot to climb external obstacles. We present the design of the robot, simple modeling of its behavior, and experimental testing. Our work advances the area of hybrid soft-rigid robotics by demonstrating how leveragingmore »
Soft robots employ flexible and compliant materials to perform adaptive tasks and navigate uncertain environments. However, soft robots are often unable to achieve forces and precision on the order of rigid-bodied robots. In this paper, we propose a new class of mobile soft robots that can reversibly transition between compliant and stiff states without reconfiguration. The robot can passively conform or actively control its shape, stiffen in its current configuration to function as a rigid-bodied robot, then return to its flexible form. The robotic structure consists of passive granular material surrounded by an active membrane. The membrane is composed of interconnected robotic sub-units that can control the packing density of the granular material and exploit jamming behaviors by varying the length of the interconnecting cables. Each robotic sub-unit uses a differential drive system to achieve locomotion and self-reconfigurability. We present the robot design and perform a set of locomotion and object manipulation experiments to characterize the robot's performance in soft and rigid states. We also introduce a simulation framework in which we model the jamming soft robot design and study the scalability of this class of robots. The proposed concept demonstrates the properties of both soft and rigid robots, andmore »
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