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The Next Face of Robotics - Soft Robots
From the Terminator franchise to the Transformers, robots have been portrayed as rigid systems made out of hard metal such as aluminum or steel used to carry out duties that are considered dangerous for human beings. However, technological advancements in the field of robotics have gone beyond just pistons, nuts, and bolts, paving the way for safer, highly flexible robots with endless applications—better known as soft robotics.
Unlike traditional robots, soft robots are not rigid. This enables them to handle delicate or thin or irregularly-shaped objects. Due to the unmatched flexibility, these robots can squeeze into spaces and most importantly, recover from collisions a lot faster when compared to its predecessors. These factors play a pivotal role in search and rescue operations and other kinds of emergency services. In one instance, a robot named CRAM (Compressible Robot and Articulated Mechanisms) could mimic a cockroach's ability to squeeze through cracks and tight spaces, to rescue or find people stuck in places in case of an earthquake or any other natural disasters.
Soft robotics also plays a major role in the field of medicine as it can be used in the form of soft exosuits to help rehab patients or as a tool for Minimally Invasive Surgeries (MIS). One amongst the popular soft robots in this field is the STIFF-FLOP manipulator. Used to perform MIS, the tool promises selective stiffness to improve on traditional endoscopes and high dexterity.
Self-repair is another key aspect of soft robotics. The self-healing polymer used in these robots is the key to solve one of the biggest challenges faced in the field of robotics, which is durability. Lastly, unlike hard bodied robots, soft robots are a whole lot safer to work around and significantly reduce risks involved in using robots to perform human actions.