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A New Class of Inflatable Robots By OtherLab

Soulskill posted more than 2 years ago | from the not-that-lab-but-the-other-lab dept.

Robotics 44

HizookRobotics writes "Inflatable robots have the potential to be low-cost, lightweight, extremely powerful, and yet 'human safe' — in other words, perfect for many robotics applications. Here are two new examples: a 15-foot-long walking robot (a Pneubot named Ant-Roach) and a complete, inflatable robot arm (plus hand). Both of these robots were developed by Otherlab as part of their 'pneubotics' project (in collaboration with Meka Robotics and Manu Prakash at Stanford University), with some funding from DARPA's Maximum Mobility and Manipulation program. These robots use textile-based, inflatable actuators that contract upon inflation into specially-designed shapes to effect motion. Since these robots are built out of lightweight fabric-and-air structural members and powered via pneumatics or hydraulics, they exhibit large strength-to-weight ratios. For example, Ant-Roach is less than 70 lbs and can probably support up to 1000 lbs; the inflatable robot arm is less than 2 lbs and can lift a few hundred pounds at 50-60 psi."

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Seems like... (3, Funny)

piggydoggy (804252) | more than 2 years ago | (#38145954)

It's literally a real life penis monster, like the ones people made with Spore creature creator and put on Youtube.

Re:Seems like... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38146484)

It's literally a real life penis monster,

I just can't get over how the long "nose" can move about as if it were a prehensile limb.

And to say nothing of the fact that they made it 6 legged. Animals with more than 4 legs disturb me.

Re:Seems like... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38146544)

Relax, it is actually literally a robot, not literally a "real life" monster, penis or no.

Re:Seems like... (1)

anagama (611277) | more than 2 years ago | (#38148318)

I think he needs to meet the giant blowup doll and make som pneumobot pr0n. []

Not safe for most work environments.

I for one welcome (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38148846)

I for one welcome our inflatable robot sexual overlords.

Provided of course they are of legal age. *Sorry Sandusky - no underaged robot overlord for you*

I see... (4, Funny)

Penguinshit (591885) | more than 2 years ago | (#38146026)

... Dr. Schlock is at it again.

Re:I see... (1)

vegiVamp (518171) | more than 2 years ago | (#38146124)

My thoughts exactly :-)

Re:I see... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38146522)

Don'tcha mean Dr. Schlong?

Re:I see... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38146646)

My thought exactly. Even played a little "ba-dum-tish" in my head :D

Re:I see... (1)

farmerj (566229) | more than 2 years ago | (#38146590)

Needs a rabbit with a switch-blade though...

Re:I see... (1)

Penguinshit (591885) | more than 2 years ago | (#38146644)

I was thinking more Emergency Pants.

Re:I see... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38147500)

Or a ferret with ADHD

Re:I see... (1)

d3ac0n (715594) | more than 2 years ago | (#38147704)

Yep. So where are the inflato-bot diggers and their awesome nightclub?

Re:I see... (1)

jgtg32a (1173373) | more than 2 years ago | (#38147812)

Came for Sluggy reference leaving satisfied.

If this Thanksgiving is anything like the last one maybe I'll have a chance to catch up with it again, I think it's only been two years.

:O (0)

aevan (903814) | more than 2 years ago | (#38146066)

Dunno about the previous class of inflatable robots, but for some reason Japan comes to mind...

Re::O (1)

lisaparratt (752068) | more than 2 years ago | (#38146440)

With any luck, I'll be able to get my Rape Rape Revolution machine real soon now! ^_^

Frost 4Ist (-1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38146128)

obsessives 4nd 7he

Really! (2)

ArcadeNut (85398) | more than 2 years ago | (#38146194)

Ummm... She's my new "Robot!" Really! I swear!

Re:Really! (3, Insightful)

sunzoomspark (1960660) | more than 2 years ago | (#38146940)

They could make a blow up doll that could morph into an armchair or something else innocuous to disguise itself.

Quick clarifications (5, Informative)

HizookRobotics (1722346) | more than 2 years ago | (#38146220)

So a few brief items (that are updated in the Hizook article [] ): The collaborator at Stanford is Manu Prakash; the inflatable actuators actually contract (not expand); they can be powered by either pneumatics or hydraulics; and Ant-Roach can probably support up to 1000 lbs (a bit more than just a few riders).

Re:Quick clarifications (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38147280)

He did not at all qualify his claim of 1000 lbs. It is most likely 1000lbs peak load, in which case you really would not want more than a couple or three adults.

Good luck to their marketing department (4, Funny)

Patch86 (1465427) | more than 2 years ago | (#38146282)

So, it looks like a giant blue monster out of the darker parts of Japanese adult animation, sounds like dance music played on cheap speakers, walks slowly, and, with that size:weight ratio, probably doesn't do well on windy days. Its "walk on water" demo was a little painful, too.

It's very cool, but I don't envy the guy who has to put together the sales pitch.

Re:Good luck to their marketing department (1)

sunzoomspark (1960660) | more than 2 years ago | (#38146924)

The technology could be used to liven up those big balloons they use in parades. Those things are tethered anyway, some hoses could be added to a few of the lines. It could also be used to making a silly version of a loch ness style critter that could be connected to a neutrally buoyant sled with compressed air tanks to power movement. Or you could make fun house critters that could grab people without hurting them.

The quoted weights are bullshit (3, Interesting)

Rogerborg (306625) | more than 2 years ago | (#38146594)

Since they don't include the weight of the compressors that they're tethered to, and the power generation for them. So, cool toys, but they're not going to come stomping down Main Street any time soon, unless they're trailing a reeeeeally long extension cord.

Re:The quoted weights are bullshit (2)

somersault (912633) | more than 2 years ago | (#38146798)

So, cool toys, but they're not going to come stomping down Main Street any time soon, unless they're trailing a reeeeeally long extension cord.

So, kind of like an Eva [] unit then? :)

Makes me think of the scene from Airplane! (1)

Yuioup (452151) | more than 2 years ago | (#38146632) []

Inflatable autopilot.


nike air max ltd (-1)

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Hmm, where have I seen that before.. (1)

Dr_Barnowl (709838) | more than 2 years ago | (#38147080)

Ant-Roach [] reminds me of a tachikoma []

Re:Hmm, where have I seen that before.. (1)

n30na (1525807) | more than 2 years ago | (#38147364)

was just thinking the same thing...

Possible prosthetic applications? (3, Insightful)

pewterfish (766491) | more than 2 years ago | (#38147562)

Lightweight, dextrous, "safe" and strong... Granted, it's not got the full range of motion a human arm needs, yet, but this is interesting work. A small pneumatic compresser should be belt- or backpack-mountable, and then it would just need the control and processing electronics. Admittedly that's still kind of a big problem, but at a limb weight of 2lbs, this technology could be an interesting alternative to the "full-metal" approach of current limbs.

Re:Possible prosthetic applications? (1)

necro81 (917438) | more than 2 years ago | (#38148804)

A difficulty with pneumatic actuators like this is that, even at the 50-60 psi they are using, they aren't terribly stiff (i.e., force vs displacement, like Hooke's Law) in the same way that motors and geartrains are in conventional prosthetics. A little compliance is good when we're talking about prosthetics, but I think users would find this unacceptably spongey. The problem is that you have a compressible fluid in a compliant envelope. They can provide force, certainly, but to hold position in the face of a dynamic load requires pretty sophistocated controls. Hydraulics, by using incompressible fluids, do better, but can be messy (messier than, say, electrical connectors for assembly, maintenance, and repair). Air compressors and solenoid valves can be loud, and aren't particularly battery-efficient compared to motors (electrical energy in versus mechanical work out).

These aren't insurmountable obstacles, though. These guys are still learning, developing, and prototyping. I wouldn't write it off just yet, but they've got some huge hurdles if they want a workable prosthesis.

Re:Possible prosthetic applications? (2)

radtea (464814) | more than 2 years ago | (#38149538)

The problem is that you have a compressible fluid in a compliant envelope.

One approach to this issue is to add lockable hard sliders. They act as idlers when unlocked but when engaged provide the required stiffness. For many applications they can be plastic and won't add huge amounts of weight, and the locking mechanism could itself be pneumatically controlled, so it's a relatively small number of additional valves.

Good news... (1)

Oswald McWeany (2428506) | more than 2 years ago | (#38148156)

Good news is if the inflatible robots ever tried to conquer humanity we could fight them with razor blades and a daisy BB gun.

Re:Good news... (1)

blair1q (305137) | more than 2 years ago | (#38151172)

or just let them nudge us. it'd save us a bundle on massages.

Also Self Assembling Robots (1)

b0bby (201198) | more than 2 years ago | (#38148316)

I submitted this story a while back but it never took off - the video of the robot assembling itself from spray foam is pretty cool: []

Re:Also Self Assembling Robots (1)

blair1q (305137) | more than 2 years ago | (#38151156)

no, it was posted. and, imo, that concept blows.

i want to see a robot actually build a copy of itself, not get stuck in its own mess and say it "grew"

Great... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38148426)

This trumps my bouncy castle.

The jokes (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38149080)

They pretty much write themselves, don't they?

Tension strips (2)

solidraven (1633185) | more than 2 years ago | (#38149296)

You could probably measure the position of such a system with a tension strip. If you put a few of them around the arm you could determine the direction it's pointing at with fairly simple math. And it's a very cheap solution.

new robot (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38149968)

How about my new robot? ===>HDMI []

Where would (1)

bugs2squash (1132591) | more than 2 years ago | (#38150482)

one purchase the air valves to make one of these ? Are these low cost items or expensive specialist things.

Re:Where would (1)

Animats (122034) | more than 2 years ago | (#38151082)

Where would one purchase the air valves to make one of these ? Are these low cost items or expensive specialist things.

Ordinary solenoid on/off air valves are widely used, easily available and cheap. Grainger stocks them, and they show up in surplus stores. Proportional air valves are somewhat exotic items. []

From the video, it looks like the robot's legs are controlled through simple on-off valves (notice the clicks and the jerky leg motion) but the trunk has full proportional control and feedback.

Precision pneumatics is effective but not used all that much. Most pneumatic actuators are a simple solenoid valve controlling air to a cylinder, with no feedback. Precision control of a pneumatic actuator requires a pair of proportional valves (which themselves require internal feedback on their valve spool) and a double acting air cylinder or other actuator with position and pressure feedback. There are at least two analog outputs (the valve solenoids) and five inputs (two valve positions, two pressures, and one actuator position) to deal with for each actuator. The control theory for this is complex. If you do all that, though, you get an actuator that behaves like a spring with adjustable spring constant, zero position, and damping. Which is what a muscle pair has.

The problem with pneumatic mobile robots, of course, is lugging the air compressor around.

I've seen enough... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38151116)

...hentai to see where this is going.

watching that inspect and walk away video (1)

blair1q (305137) | more than 2 years ago | (#38151136)

having to watch that "inspect and walk away [] " video must be what it's like to have to interview with Herman Cain [] for a job...

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