From Nanowerk News:

Robots are usually expected to be rigid, fast and efficient. But researchers at EPFL’s Reconfigurable Robotics Lab (RRL) have turned that notion on its head with their soft robots.Soft robots, powered by muscle-like actuators, are designed to be used on the human body in order to help people move. They are made of elastomers, including silicon and rubber, and so they are inherently safe. They are controlled by changing the air pressure in specially designed ‘soft balloons’, which also serve as the robot’s body. A predictive model that can be used to carefully control the mechanical behavior of the robots’ various modules has just been published in Scientific Reports (“Stretchable Materials for Robust Soft Actuators towards Assistive Wearable Devices”).

Potential applications for these robots include patient rehabilitation, handling fragile objects, biomimetic systems and home care. “Our robot designs focus largely on safety,” said Jamie Paik, the director of the RRL. “There’s very little risk of getting hurt if you’re wearing an exoskeleton made up of soft materials, for example” she added.

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Image Credit:  Mard Delachaux / EPFL

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