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Starfish robot's supple limbs let it creep through cracks (video)

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Harvard scientists have created a rubber robot capable of greater flexibility than hard metal or plastic models.

Multigait Soft Robot
Multigait Soft Robot

Inspired by squid, worms, and other creatures without hard skeletons, Harvard scientists have created a flexible robot able to navigate terrain that can confound stiffer, more traditional models. The four-legged "multigait soft robot" is composed of rubbery plastic embedded with air pockets, which inflate or deflate to allow for a smooth, rolling gait. With about the same air pressure as a basketball (7 psi), the robot can cover roughly 1.5 meters every minute. More impressive is its maneuverability. In one test, the robot was able to squeeze under a glass plate placed two centimeters above the ground — a feat impossible for comparably sized stiff-bodied 'bots. The soft robot's body is also simpler to create, since it requires no joints or bearings, and can be made with a 3D printer mold.

As the Michigan jumping robot has shown us, this puffy fellow is hardly the only way to get around difficult terrain, and many robots, including this crawling baby, are based on animals. Though the soft 'bot has some significant advantages over these, it is also susceptible to sharp objects and lacks load-carrying capability. However, its creators say these problems could be fixed in later versions. For now, watch the current creation in all its creeping glory below.