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Saturday, 4 February 2017


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Engineers from MIT have once again proved their mettle with their new out of the box invention. They have made a transparent, gel-based robot that move when water is pumped in and out of them. The bots can perform various task, including kicking a ball underwater, and grabbing and releasing a live fish into the water.
The robot from MIT looks a bit like one of those claw machines you have seen in arcade, only instead of metal, the claws are actually made of a clear, membranous substance. And instead picking up stuffed dolls, they pick up live fish.

Hydrogel (-- a tough, rubbery, nearly transparent and highly flexible material that's composed mostly of water) is the main component used to make the robots. Each robot is an assemblage of hollow, precisely designed hydrogel structures, connected to rubbery tubes. When water is pumped into these rubbery tube which looks like limbs, stretch or curl, open and close like a hand and because the robots are both powered by and made almost entirely of water, they have similar visual and acoustic properties to water. The researchers propose that these robots, if designed for underwater applications, may be virtually invisible.

Credit: http://www.pcmag.com
The team have developed several hydrogel robots, including a finlike structure that flaps back and forth, an articulated appendage that makes kicking motions, and a soft, hand-shaped robot that can squeeze and relax.
Getting the inspiration from eel, the researchers were able to make the to claw close fast enough that it can grab a goldfish without harming it in the process, while a more traditional robotic hand would most probably crush the fish in the process, and nobody wants that.

Credit: http://laughingsquid.com
Although team doesn’t have any real world application of the robot right now other than odd fish grabbing, but it looks great and open a new path to work on. The material used in robots does play along nicely with human tissue, meaning it could someday have some usual surgical applications as said by lead researcher Xuanhe Zhoa, “Hydrogels are soft, wet, biocompatible, and can form more friendly interfaces with human organs. We are actively collaborating with medical groups to translate this system into soft manipulators such as hydrogel ‘hands,’ which could potentially apply more gentle manipulations to tissues and organs in surgical operations”.

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