Friday, 16 Oct, 2009 Technology

Latest Invention: Shape-changing Robot from iRobot


This is the latest invention of engineers from iRobot, who worked together with researchers from the University of Chicago. The team recently presented their unique robot on IEEE/RSJ International Conference on Intelligent Robots and Systems.

The unique aspect of this latest invention is that it can move by inflating and deflating. Such technique was dubbed by the robot's developers "jamming". The mechanism used by the blob bot enables the machine to shift from a liquid-like state to a solid-like one.

Researchers claim that their invention represents a new type of chemical robot, so-called chembot. It has a stretchy silicone skin made of numerous cellular sections. Each section includes a "jammable slurry."

There is an actuator located in the center of the blob robot. When one or more cells are unjammed while the actuator is inflated, the machine inflates in the areas where the cells are unjammed. Scientists are able to control the process of unjamming cells, thus being able to alter the shape of the robot and make it roll in a particular direction, informs IEEE Spectrum.

In 2008 DARPA offered $3.3 million for the project development. It is worth noting that engineers aim to create a robot able to squeeze through openings that are smaller than the machine's own dimensions. Such properties will open doors to a large number of uses. The clip below illustrates the robot in 2008. Since then, engineers have been attempting to create special sensors for the robot and looking forward to connect several blob robots together.

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