Robots! We all have seen them. In this age, everyone knows what they are!
The first vision we get when thinking about robots is a rigid, metal, human-looking body, moving stiffly with a lot of wires hanging out.
But now, in a major robotics breakthrough, scientists developed the first "soft" robot that walks without using motors or other additional components.
DeployBot: Made of soft, deployable materials
Scientists in Seoul have built the foldable robot called 'DeployBot', assembled from eight modules: one for each of the legs and four for the body.
The modules lie flat when folded, but pop up into a square after being deployed.
Both flexible and rigid materials were used for making the modules apart from magnets that connect and interlock the modules.
Shape-memory alloy wires embedded in module frames
The motor-less robot has shape-memory alloy wires that run through each module.
The wires fold/deploy the modules repeatedly, but the process takes several seconds.
The machine can walk when an electric current is applied to the embedded wires, which heat up and cause flexible segments to bend and contract.
Controlling the electric current to different segments results in different walking styles.
Can be used for space missions: Researchers
Scientists at Seoul National University and Sungkyunkwan University have developed the DeployBot.
They said the low cost machine is easily deployed; it has good load-bearing ability and compact size.
They expect its ability to take different forms may be helpful in future space missions and seabed explorations.
They published a paper on DeployBot and other similar deployable structures in Material Horizons.
Main advantage of DeployBot
One of the researchers, Sung-Hoon Ahn from Seoul National University, stated, "The main advantage of this modular robot is robustness in various environments due to lack of mechanical systems such as motors and gears."
Flat-pack robot different from traditional ones
Ahn said unlike traditional motor-based robots, sealing and lubrication of the mechanical system in space or underwater aren't a problem for DeployBot.
The researchers say repairing the soft robot is easy, as replacing the modules is all it takes.
In space missions, the lightweight, foldable robots can lower costs and weight, resulting in less rocket fuel being used to carry them into space.
Walks like a four-legged animal
DeployBot walks in a manner similar to a four-legged animal and moves at a slow pace, around two meters per hour.
It can also turn at a slow rate; it requires 21 strides to turn 90 degrees.
The scientists said it can walk with two distinct gaits.
Though it isn't fast, it can be used in operations where speed isn't important.