See a clever electronics-free robot go for an air-powered stroll

See a clever electronics-free robot go for an air-powered stroll

This soft robot relies on pressurized air to function.

University of California, San Diego

When we think about what makes robots, we usually think of their electronic components. But robots don’t have to be incredibly complex, and a team of researchers have thought about how to build a robot that doesn’t need electronics at all.

Engineers at the University of California, San Diego built a soft quadruped robot that could walk using a system of pressurized air and valves to control its movements. There are no circuit boards found on the construction.

The UCSD Jacobs School of Engineering released a video this week showing the attractive robot and its tubular legs moving. Leg movements mimic a Cydian turtle, known for its long neck and distinctive walking gait.

The team published a study on robots in the journal Science Robotics on Wednesday. Co-author Michael Tolley, a mechanical engineering professor at UCSD, said, “Our focus here was to run the easiest wind-powered nervous system.”

Researchers have seen electronics-free soft robots as toys or at locations such as mine shafts or MRI machines, where electronics are not safe to deploy.

Team members want to continue the development of robots as they work to improve the gadget’s ability to cope with more challenging terrain and obstacles. Lead author Dylan Drotman said, “This work is a fundamental yet important step towards a fully autonomous, electronics-free robot.”

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