Shape-Shifting, Self-Healing Robots, A Reality Soon

Robots that could change forms and self-heal are no more fictions. Scientists have developed a material from foam and wax that can transform from hard to soft states and back, according to a report from Times of India.

According to the researchers, this material could allow low-cost robots to perform the same functions like the shape-shifting T-1000 robots from the movie Terminator, where the solid robot could change into a liquid state to flow through tight spaces or to self-heal itself.

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DARPA needs such robots

Anette Hosoi, professor of mechanical engineering and applied mathematics at MIT, has developed the material, which can be used to build deformable surgical robots, believe experts. Such robots could reach any point through the body without damaging any of the organs or vessels.

Hosoi said that these robots can, also, be used to perform search and rescue operations to pass through rubblelooking for survivors. As per the researcher this material is self-healing, so, if a robot is fractured due to harsh use it can be repaired by heating it and then cooling it, which will give the original shape and configuration.

Researchers worked with Boston Dynamics to develop the material under the Chemical Robots program of the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA). DARPA was looking for shape-shifting robots that can pass through the tight spaces and then expand again to move around a given area.

What inspired the concept?

According to Hosoi, for performing such unique tasks, a robot must be able to exert a reasonable amount of force on its surroundings. “You can’t just create a bowl of Jell-O, because if the Jell-O has to manipulate an object, it would simply deform without applying significant pressure to the thing it was trying to move.”

Also, controlling the movements of a soft-structure is very challenging because it is almost impossible to presage the kind of movement the structure will do compare to a rigid robot. Therefore, to overcome such issue, researchers came up with an idea to develop a material that can switch shapes.

Explaining the concept, Hosoi says if an individual wants the robot to sneak into the room under a door then soft shape will be handy and if a window is to be opened then the some rigid form of the robot would be helpful.