This is a project that's being developed at EPFL (École
Polytechnique Fédérale de Lausanne). The Laboratory of Intelligent
Systems (LIS) is working on a robot made up of soft, floating modules
that connect to each other through electroadhesion.
Electroadhesion is engineering magic that works by using very high
voltages to generate a charge differential between two surfaces, causing
them to stick together. The nice thing about electroadhesion (besides
the fact that it works even on non-conductive surfaces) is that it's
flexible, making it an ideal dynamic connector for soft, modular robots.
Where EPFL is really going nuts, though, is with these soft robotic
modules that float.
Modular robots are capable of adapting their morphology to tasks
and environments which
makes them more versatile,
flexible, and robust
compared to fixed-bodied
bots. Most current systems
lack mechanical flexibility
when increasing the
number of modules due to
hard building blocks
(modules) and highly rigid
Although this design
and stability, it minimizes
flexibility. In order to
improve adaptation to
softness on the module
level might be beneficial.
The goal of this project
is to look at how
mechanical module softness can increase the efficiency and the capabilities of a modular robot. However, coping with softness
requires rethinking the way modules are built. This study will be carried out with soft modules that feature a reversible
connection mechanism, active deformation, and sensing. It will include design and development of novel soft technologies, smart
sensing, and actuation. Go to
http://lis.epfl.ch/SoftRobotics to find out more.
(Left) Two modules connected; (right) Module mockup featuring electroadhesion.
Artistic rendering of the project: soft modules floating in air,
forming an artificial multi-cellular organism.
Too lazy to make your bed? Then this should be your next
purchase. Spanish furniture makers OHEA has devised the Smart
Bed that can make itself in 50 seconds. It will do this after three
seconds of being empty when set on automatic mode. A
mechanical arm rolls the covers up to the top of the bed while the
pillows are straightened and set back down. Price was not listed
but we expect it’s one of those cases that if you have to ask how
much it costs, then ...
There are also many instances where because of advanced age,
some type of physical disability, or because of an accident, the individual may simply be unable to make a bed, so this might not
be so frivolous, after all.
24 SERVO 09.2012