Squishybots: Soft, bendy and smarter than ever

2019-03-01 07:15:00

By Justin Mullins (Image: Ronald Kurniawan) (Image: Massimo Brega/The Lighthouse/SPL) Editorial: “Darwin trumps self-obsession in robotics“ PICTURE what a robot might look like 50 years from now. It’s mowing the lawn, or helping you with the housework. Now, what shape is it? What is it made out of? Does it have arms, legs and a head? Chances are, what you were imagining does not have a squishy body and tentacles – but such a creature would be closer to the real future of robotics. For many tasks that we actually want robots to do, a hard body or humanoid shape just isn’t cutting it. So researchers are rethinking the fundamentals of what a smart machine is. Take the robot being built by Cecilia Laschi and her colleagues in the Italian city of Pisa. At the cost of a cool €10 million, they are building a soft, rubbery, and very smart octopus. Its tentacles are made from rubber, mesh and cables, and move in an elegant, natural-looking way underwater. With little brainpower,