The Octobot created by Harvard scientists

A new generation of new robots has started with the creation of the first autonomous and entirely soft robot.  The Octobot, created by a Harvard University team have created a chemical reaction that allows the 3-D printed robot using their knowledge and expertise in robotics, mechanical engineering, microfluidics, and, 3-D printing. 

The soft rubber-like robot is moved by a gas under pressure. The bot, according to the study published in Nature, the octopus-looking robot is only two centimeters long and is made of rubber-like material.

“The struggle has always been in replacing rigid components like batteries and electronic controls with analogous soft systems and then putting it all together,” Robert Wood, one of the authors of the study, told NPR. “This research demonstrates that we can easily manufacture the key components of a simple, entirely soft robot, which lays the foundation for more complex designs.”

The design is truly revolutionary in that it opens the door for more versatile robots that differ from the typical rigid structure that, even though are effective, lack practicality. 

At this time, Octobot can run on 1 ml of hydrogen peroxide as fuel, from four to eight minutes flexing and relaxing its legs. Even though it does nothing else in particular, it is a milestone in robotics. 

“Creating a new class of fully soft, autonomous robots is a grand challenge, because it requires soft analogues of the control and power hardware currently used,” the study says.  This invention is the first step into creating more flexible robots. 

“Although soft robotics is still in its infancy, it holds great promise for several applications, such as servicing and inspecting machinery, search-and-rescue operations, and exploration,” Mazzolai and Mattoli, of the Italian Institute of Technology’s Center for Micro-BioRobotics wrote. “Soft robots might also open up new approaches to improving wellness and quality of life.”