The nascent field of soft robotics has emerged as an exciting area of research that stands to revolutionize our interaction with machines. Soft robots possess many attributes that are difficult, if not impossible, to achieve with conventional robots composed of rigid materials. Yet, despite recent advances, soft robots generally require rigid components for power, control, and energy regulation, thus they remain either tethered or soft-rigid hybrid systems. Recent work has explored possible soft analogs for these standard rigid components. Elimination of rigid components allows the shrinking of length scales and development of new form factors impossible with traditional motors, batteries, and electronic controllers. We look at the use of a novel soft controller, alternate fuel source, and soft actuator and explore possible form factors and applications. These components are brought together via a design and rapid fabrication approach, which lays the foundation for a new class of completely soft, autonomous robots. I will describe the development of Octobot, the first entirely soft, untethered robot. I will then present work in EMB3D printing soft somatosensitive actuators innervated with multiple conductive features for haptic, proprioceptive, and thermoceptive sensing in soft robotic end effectors. This integrated design, materials, and manufacturing approach can be readily extended to other soft robotic systems that are entirely soft, require somatosensory feedback for improved control, or cannot be made with traditional manufacturing methods.
Speaker: Michael Wehner, Lawrence Berkeley National Labs
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