Engineers at the University of California San Diego have created a four-legged soft robot that doesn’t need any electronics to work. The robot only needs a constant source of pressurized air for all its functions, including its controls and locomotion systems. Soft robots are of particular interest because they easily adapt to their environment and operate safely near humans.
Most of them are powered by pressurized air and are controlled by electronic circuits, but this approach requires complex components like circuit boards, valves, and pumps, often outside the robot’s body; these components, which constitute the robot’s brains and nervous system, are typically bulky and expensive. By contrast, the UC San Diego robot is controlled by a light-weight, low-cost system of pneumatic circuits, made up of tubes and soft valves, which are built into the robot itself. The robot can walk on command or in response to signals it receives from the environment.