bots IN BRIEF
This might look like a state-of-the-art theme park ride, but the
thrills with Deakin University’s latest innovation will only be
experienced by the likes of future jet fighter pilots.
Yep. That's a dude playing around in the immersive flight simulator
that's mounted on the end of a giant robot arm. It has six degrees of
freedom and it can simulate continuous rotation and g-forces. (Doesn’t
that sound like some serious puke-inducing fun, or what?) The robot —
When the Australians get a couple of these things up and running, they'll be linked together to let fighter pilots dogfight
with their buddies.
What sets the UMS apart from standard simulators is the integration of haptics technology which provides a sense of
touch and feel to virtual or remote objects, and its ability to move at high speed and in any direction. Combined with a high
resolution 3D display mounted inside a headset, the user is totally immersed in the set training environment and has a “real”
experience – both visually and physically.
WORM YOUR WAY AROUND
There's just something “interesting” about the bulbous air muscles
that soft robots use. The designs continue to get more and more refined
so the robots themselves are getting more and more capable of actually
doing stuff. Take this soft robot from Harvard, for example. It not only
walks, it knows several different gaits and can deflate to stuff itself
through tiny little gaps.
There's nothing solid in it at all. You could probably smash this thing
with a hammer a whole bunch of times and it would still keep going.
However, that's part of the idea. The other part of the idea is that soft
robots can adapt themselves to squeeze through tight places and
otherwise get into areas that robots with rigid structures might not be able to.
This particular robot (which comes from George M. Whitesides' lab at Harvard) definitely distinguishes itself by being
capable of several unique gait styles including walking, crawling, and slithering. Each of the gaits is controlled by pumping air at
up to 10 PSI into a succession of limbs, inflating and deflating elastomer compartments to provide temporary structure and
rigidity. In addition to slipping through gaps, the robot can make it across things like felt cloth, gravel, mud, and Jell-O
(don't ask how they know).
As the Harvard researchers explained in a paper, the robot was inspired by animals like squid, starfish, and worms
that "do not have hard internal skeletons," and the advantage of soft robotics is that "simple types of actuation produce
22 SERVO 01.2012