Jamming Robot Gripper Grows Some Legs

What's got six legs, no bones, and is full of coffee? Yeah, it's this robot

2 min read
Jamming Robot Gripper Grows Some Legs

You remember that incredibly awesome jamming gripper, right? Well, it's grown six legs and learned how to walk.

This is the Jamming Modulated Unimorph Hexapod (aka JHEX), a prototype soft robot that's based on the coffee grounds and balloon system developed by iRobot, Cornell University, and the University of Chicago. The basic idea behind the whole jammin' thing is that by changing the pressure inside a flexible container filled with a granulated material, you can make the particles of the material either flow around each other or "jam" together, causing the container to transition between softness and rigidity. JHEX can walk by switching its legs between these soft and rigid states, or it can go from completely rigid to completely soft.

Here's a video (of a video) showing the thing crawling:

We've been seeing all of these soft robots recently thanks in large part to DARPA and their Chembots program. Just as a refresher, here's what DARPA is (eventually) looking for:

The goal of the Chemical Robots (ChemBots) program is to create a new class of soft, flexible, meso-scale mobile objects that can identify and maneuver through openings smaller than their dimensions and perform tasks once entry is gained.  The program seeks to develop a ChemBot that can perform several operations in sequence.  It should travel a specified distance and traverse an arbitrarily shaped opening much smaller than the largest characteristic of the robot itself.  Once through the opening, it will reconstitute its size, shape, and functionality and travel again to perform a task using an embedded payload.

Just about all of the Chembot prototypes that we've met have been tethered to a power source (like compressed air), which means that you've got a way to disable these things if they start oozing (or jamming) towards you. Getting power sources and payloads onboard the robots themselves isn't going to be easy, but honestly, based on the creativity and progress that we've seen so far, we're fairly optimistic that DARPA will get what it wants, and we'll have something new to feel vaguely uncomfortable about.

[ Annan Mozeika ] via [ Hizook ]

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The Bionic-Hand Arms Race

The prosthetics industry is too focused on high-tech limbs that are complicated, costly, and often impractical

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A photograph of a young woman with brown eyes and neck length hair dyed rose gold sits at a white table. In one hand she holds a carbon fiber robotic arm and hand. Her other arm ends near her elbow. Her short sleeve shirt has a pattern on it of illustrated hands.

The author, Britt Young, holding her Ottobock bebionic bionic arm.

Gabriela Hasbun. Makeup: Maria Nguyen for MAC cosmetics; Hair: Joan Laqui for Living Proof
DarkGray

In Jules Verne’s 1865 novel From the Earth to the Moon, members of the fictitious Baltimore Gun Club, all disabled Civil War veterans, restlessly search for a new enemy to conquer. They had spent the war innovating new, deadlier weaponry. By the war’s end, with “not quite one arm between four persons, and exactly two legs between six,” these self-taught amputee-weaponsmiths decide to repurpose their skills toward a new projectile: a rocket ship.

The story of the Baltimore Gun Club propelling themselves to the moon is about the extraordinary masculine power of the veteran, who doesn’t simply “overcome” his disability; he derives power and ambition from it. Their “crutches, wooden legs, artificial arms, steel hooks, caoutchouc [rubber] jaws, silver craniums [and] platinum noses” don’t play leading roles in their personalities—they are merely tools on their bodies. These piecemeal men are unlikely crusaders of invention with an even more unlikely mission. And yet who better to design the next great leap in technology than men remade by technology themselves?

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