OCTOBOT: The first totally soft bodied autonomous robot

By Andrea Hablutzel Pelayo

…which is also very cute and could someday save lives

With an exterior crafted out of silicone, made by a very low cost on a 3D printer, the Octobot is the first robot made from an entirely soft material that requires no power and that works autonomously.

Octobot_002Original Image by Lori Sanders/Harvard University, used under CC BY-NC-ND 3.0 license, viaHarvard SEAS

Shaped like an octopus and designed to mimic their flexibility and squishiness to fit through cracks and small spaces without breaking, it is impulsed by fluids from inside its structure. As they carry their own fuel supply, it powers the robot through a chemical reaction in its also flexible tank.

The chemical reaction is the result of combining a solution of hydrogen peroxide in water and it getting in contact with a platinum catalyst also on board, it forms water and gas, which is then used to power the movement of the legs/tentacles. The soft, flexible on-board logic directs the reaction produced to control the overall movement of the robot, which is controlled by valves that determine where the fuel is sent.

And it fits in the palm of your hand, pretty cute and interesting at the same time, it is a creation that had never been done before, made by a team from the University of Harvard.

2016_RT_MW_Octobot_001Original Image by Lori Sanders/Harvard University, used under CC BY-NC-ND 3.0 license, viaHarvard SEAS

By being made of purely soft materials on a 3D printer on a very low cost, the creators were able to make 300 of them for trial and error purposes, even though this is just the first step of the creation, but they are right on track. With the technology they’ve developed so far, the team will surely make something great out of it.

It has the capacity to climb and swim, the goal is for it to be able to one day be used for oceanic research and rescue as well as climate sensing and much more, the possibilities for this new generation of robots are abundant; Octobot itself has a lot of potential and its creation cost very affordable, so it looks like it has a very bright future ahead.

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