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Robotics continues to make giant strides

Robots are becoming increasingly specialized and advanced. Bioinspired robots are quite a thing.


The rise of robotics and robots in automation has led to many humanoid helpers. This can be best seen in collaborative robots. The robotic arm is the new standard in automation assistance because we do not have to change the human environment for these robots to operate effectively. These human-like functioning robots can pick up, locate and place, and operate handheld machinery.

However, the human form is not the most efficient form for a robot to mirror. The goal of bio-robotics is to design a machine that can interact with its environment and dynamic situations like coming in contact with the ground.

Several companies and research groups have focused on biology-inspired robots to create more responsive machines that have an easier time manipulating their environment.

Latest robotics to keep an eye on

  • The “worm” created by the Italian Institute of Technology (IIT) in Genoa, a bioinspired technology device capable of exploring underground and other planet

  • The Octobot by Harvard University

  • Pleurobot, the robot-salamander by École Polytechnique Fédérale de Lausanne

  • Bridgestone Corp.’s high-precision soft robotic hand 

  • The applications of 5G technology in electric vehicle production and river cleaning in Singapore in collaboration with Hyundai.

World’s first robots inspired by the biology of earthworms

The bioinspired robot prototyped by the BioInspired Soft Robotics Laboratory, directed by Barbara Mazzolai, can crawl, thanks to a modular artificial body that lengthens and shortens when pressurized air passes through it. In short, it mimics an earthworm. IIT was able to produce the prototype by studying the mechanisms that guide animal movement in the soil.

Such robot could be used in the future for underground exploration, in difficult spaces, and on other planets. The project has been published in the International Journal Scientific Reports by Nature.

The Octobot from Harvard University

The Octobot excels in two distinct ways. First, it is a soft robot, replacing all mechanical components with analogous soft systems, and second, it’s autonomous. The robot is 3D printed, inlaid with channels for power and movement control, and the movement is powered through pneumatic controls by gas from hydrogen peroxide, which also is the liquid fuel for the robot.

A circuit, a soft analog of a simple electronic oscillator, controls when hydrogen peroxide decomposes to gas to inflate the robot. The gas pushes through the limbs and the microfluidic network shuts off corresponding limbs based on external feedback. As one limb starts to deflate, the gas is redirected to another so that the robot can move.

The research was headed by Robert Wood and Jennifer Lewis of the Wyss Institute for Biologically Inspired Engineering at Harvard University. Wood states that the “research demonstrates that we can easily manufacture the key components of a simple, entirely soft robot, which lays the foundation for more complex designs.” 

Pleurobot: The Robo-Salamander

At the École Polytechnique Fédérale de Lausanne, engineers have designed a robot that mimics the motion of a salamander. The robot imitates the ambulation of the salamander with a unique vertebrate that allows the robot to slither in and out of the water.

A salamander in nature can shift from a crawl to a walk to a swim by performing the same motion at different speeds. This appealed to the engineers because one doesn’t need to create different mechanisms to achieve different movements, but rather find the optimal mechanism that can perform several movements.

The skeleton of the Pleurobot has only 11 spinal segments, down from the original 40 planned segments, which were not critical for the bot’s movement. The joints also have reduced freedom of movement.

Auke Ijspeert, leader of the project, explains that understanding the neuro-prosthetics of the salamander is important for understanding the human spinal cord and brain interaction. “Being able to re-stimulate those circuits in humans in the long term is something very important,” he says, “and for that you need to understand how the spinal cord works.”

courtesy of Ecole Polytechique de Lausanne

Bridgestone Corp.’s high-precision soft robotic hand

The Japanese industrial giant Bridgestone Corp. presented the prototype of the “new high-precision soft robotic hand” that will be launched in 2024.

The device has dexterity and flexibility very close to human ones and will be used in tire production and logistics. According to Ascent Robotics Inc., which developed the project, the robotic hand will be able to package even fragile objects such as eggs and glass.

bioinspired technology
courtesy of Bridgestone Corp.

The applications of 5G technology in electric vehicle production and river cleaning in Singapore

In Singapore, the authorities, in collaboration with Hyundai, will distribute hundreds of robots for industry and river monitoring by the end of the year.

These robots are based on 5G technology and will be able to control water quality, prevent pollution, and monitor fish fauna. Furthermore, 5G technology will also be used in electric vehicle production, improving the efficiency and safety of production processes.

bioinspired technology
courtesy of Singapore municipality

What’s the future has in store

The new frontiers of robotics and connectivity are opening the doors to increasingly innovative and sustainable solutions capable of improving production efficiency and reducing environmental impact.

Thanks to these technologies, the industry can become increasingly intelligent, flexible, and competitive, while the protection of the environment and natural resources becomes increasingly a priority. Technological innovation can, therefore, represent an opportunity for economic growth and sustainable development for the future.

Maker Faire Rome – The European Edition, promoted by the Rome Chamber of Commerce, has been committed since its first edition to making innovation accessible and usable, offering content and information in a constantly updated blog full of opportunities for the curious, makers, SMEs, and companies that want to enrich their knowledge and expand their business, in Italy and abroad.

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