As if robots weren’t weird enough, scientists at the Max Planck Institute for Intelligent Systems and at the University of Boulder in Colorado have created a jointed robot that has no bulky components and connectors. Instead, the system uses hydraulics based on spider legs to actuate flat pieces of plastic. A liquid dielectric will harden and soften based on electrode activity, just like in a read spider. The robot can jump ten times its height and can be used to life objects far heavier than its parts.

The SES joints are very simple and light, as there are no peripheral components which weigh down the robot,” says Christoph Keplinger, Director of the Robotic Materials Department at the Max Planck Institute for Intelligence Systems. Many applications for soft robots require versatile actuators. These spider-inspired joints allow for high functionality and consume only little power, they are easy and cheap to make–the plastics we are using are for food packaging–and their production is easily scalable. These are all qualities that are critical for the design of robots, which can move in many different ways and manipulate a variety of objects without breaking them.”

From the release:

The high performance is enabled by Spider-inspired Electrohydraulic Soft-actuated joints–SES joints in short. The joints can be used in many different configurations–not just when creating an arachno-bot. In their paper, the scientists demonstrate a bidirectional joint, a multi-segmented artificial limb, and a three-fingered gripper, which can easily pick up delicate objects. All creations are lightweight, simple in their design, and exhibit high performance making them ideal for robotic systems that need to move rapidly and interact with many different environments. 

I, for one, welcome our new arachnorobotic overlords.

By John Biggs

John Biggs is an entrepreneur, consultant, writer, and maker. He spent fifteen years as an editor for Gizmodo, CrunchGear, and TechCrunch and has a deep background in hardware startups, 3D printing, and blockchain. His work has appeared in Men’s Health, Wired, and the New York Times.

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