A recent trend toward building pliable, inflatable bots aims to outfit them for more delicate jobs

Advances in robotics over the past few decades have revealed many ways in which home-service robots of the future will not, alas, resemble The Jetsons’ faithful Rosie. In the past several years, developers have worked to set aside another of her features, and very much in our best interest: tomorrow’s robots, it seems, won’t be steely clunkers, but rather soft, flexible, and able to gently tuck you in at night.

The field of soft robotics, the creations of which vary from skeletons covered in silicone-filled “muscles” to invertebrate, air-pressurized hexapeds, is gaining interest and support from the science and investment communities alike. As Quartz explains, two main advantages of soft robots over hard ones are their ability to bump into things without causing damage to themselves or the other party/object and their greatly increased flexibility and mobility over their harder ancestors. A wide array of investors have caught onto (and begun funding) this trend, which, as Gartner market research analyst Gerald Van Hoy told Businessweek, “has the potential to influence all kinds of robotic and machine design,” and is “a key development in the evolution of robotics.”

This content is available for Premium Subscribers only.
Already a subscriber? Log in