- Title: Snake on a plane! Don't panic, it's probably just a (soft) robot
- Date: 16th June 2017
- Summary: SINGAPORE (RECENT - JUNE 8, 2017) (REUTERS) PHD STUDENT DEMONSTRATING HOW SOFT ROBOTIC GLOVE DRIVEN BY AIR PRESSURISATION WORKS SOFT ROBOTIC GLOVE MIMICKING STUDENT'S HAND MOVEMENTS NATIONAL UNIVERSITY OF SINGAPORE (NUH) PHD STUDENT FROM MALAYSIA, YAP HONG KAI, LOOKING ON YAP'S HAND WEARING GLOVE WITH SENSORS AND MOVING SOFT ROBOTIC GLOVE LIFTING FINGERS (SOUNDBITE) (English) NATIONAL UNIVERSITY OF SINGAPORE (NUH) PHD STUDENT FROM MALAYSIA, YAP HONG KAI, SAYING: "Apart from the design of these soft actuators, we kind of need to think about how can we scale it because a lot of groups are currently focusing on coming out with different control methods, coming out with different designs in the lab, but this is only in the lab, because you can fabricate ten actuators in one day, but to commercialize this as a product, you have to scale it, and then you have to really consider the design for manufacturing and what it is the economy of scale eventually." NUS PHD STUDENTS CAO JIA WEI (LEFT) AND QIN LEI (RIGHT), BOTH FROM CHINA, LOOKING AT THEIR SOFT WORM-LIKE ROBOT BASED ON A DIELECTRIC ELASTOMER VARIOUS OF UNTETHERED SOFT WORM-LIKE ROBOT MOVING ACROSS BOARD
- Embargoed: 30th June 2017 14:58
- Keywords: robot soft robots robotics roboticists Singapore NUS
- Location: SINGAPORE
- City: SINGAPORE
- Country: Singapore
- Topics: Science
- Reuters ID: LVA0036LY4QCB
- Aspect Ratio: 16:9
- Story Text: Robots are big business. The industry will be worth $188 billion USD by 2020, up from $91.5 billion last year, according to the Industrial Design Consultancy (IDC). Yet there remains a lot that robots are unable to do, partly because they are made from rigid metal or plastic.
If they were softer, lighter and less reliant on external power they could more safely and predictably move among and interact with humans, go where humans can't, and perform some of the tasks other robots still can't manage.
At a recent academic conference on robotics in Singapore new advances in 'soft' robots were showcased. Many of these drew inspiration from nature, challenging how we think of and interact with the robots we're destined to share our future with.
On the conference sidelines Tie Feng Li, Associate Professor at Zhejiang University's Institute of Applied Mechanics Soft Matter Research Center, told Reuters future robots should be made of material that is "soft, just as our muscle is, and the skin of animals."
Students at the National University of Singapore (NUS) are coordinating with colleagues from institutions in China and the U.S. on their research.
Yap Hong Kai, a Malaysian PhD student, says the leap from laboratory to market shelf is getting closer.
In the lab "you can fabricate ten actuators in one day," said Yap.
Yap's own robot mimics a hand. It's driven by air pressurisation and designed to help with movement of patients who have had a stroke or are suffering from arthritis.
Soft robots are more likely to move via muscles that expand and contract via heat or simple hydraulics than by traditional electrical power. Some combine sensing and movement in the same component - just as our fingertips react to touch without needing our brain to make a decision.
One robot being showcased by the students was inspired by origami and made with paper, sticky tape and carbon paint. The origami concept is being worked on around the world, and PhD student Hareesh Godaba says its potential is enormous.
"We can imagine an astronaut taking up a lot of actuators of thin sheets of paper in a small capsule onto the International Space Station and making a swarm of these robots for a very low-cost, and a lot of these robots can act together, work together, to move things or to explore," he said.
Soft robots aren't going to replace their hard-shelled brethren any time soon.
Experts say part of the problem is that soft materials break easily, but scientists are determined to prove that soft robotics has a big future.
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