Soft robots given veins the let them change their stripes

If it were alive this robot would be classified as an invertebrate. It lacks a backbone and interestingly enough, all other bones are missing as well. The Harvard researchers that developed it call it a soft robot. It’s made out of silicone and uses pathways built into the substance to move. By adding pressurized air to these pathways the appendages flex relative to each other. In fact, after the break you can see a video of a starfish-shaped soft robot picking up an egg.

Now they’ve gone one step further. By adding another layer to the top, or even embedding it in the body, the robot gains the ability to change color. Above you can see a soft robot that started without any color (other than the translucent white of the silicone) and is now being changed to red. As the dye is injected it is propagating from the right side to the left. The team believes this could be useful in a swarm robotics situation. If you have a slew of these things searching for something in the dark they could pump glowing dye through their skin when they’ve found it. The demo can be seen after the jump.

Picking up an egg

Changing color

[Thanks Bill]


  1. Hack Man says:

    If it were a sex toy, this robot would be classified as awesome!

  2. Camerin says:

    And now robots can say “cut and and do i not bleed?”

  3. Chzfish says:


  4. Joe says:

    The cap, the glasses, the beard… This guy wants so much to look cool, it hurts the eyes.

  5. Hirudinea says:

    Now people won’t have to experiment on real Cephalopods.

  6. words says:

    veins the let them -> veins that let them?

  7. saul_goode says:

    …I keep telling myself I’m going to stop leaving comments regarding spelling and grammar errors, but seriously- read the headline for this article…

    “Soft robots given veins the let them change their stripes.”

    …and tell me what kind of sense it makes without first deciphering it. I understand it’s a simple mistake of using ‘the’ in the place of ‘that’. But something tells me that someone needs to modify their workflow. Maybe insert a ‘read’ between ‘write’ and ‘post’. And I mean _read_ it and not just look for red squiggly underlines.

    • m says:

      heh and I would never have noticed had you not pointed it out, my internal text to audio decoder fixed it for me, god Iv’e spent way to much time reading internet articles if my brain works like that.

    • Steve says:

      Commenting on every HAD spelling and grammar error would probably be a full time job. I just wish someone would read their posts before posting it!

  8. Dan says:

    It’s boring perpetually reading comments about spelling and grammar.

  9. dbear says:

    13 posts and 6 about spelling? Pay attention people!
    I, for one, welcome our new robotic overlords!

  10. The Geekiest Guy says:

    Title sense make no…

  11. The Geekiest Guy says:

    Scary veiny bots now, cylons by next year… Combine this tech with the android from the other day and soon skin jobs will be running around thinking they’re real.

  12. The Geekiest Guy says:

    I hope this tech gets used in prosthetics, i can see being able to pick up delicate objects would be super helpfull to some.

  13. Haku says:

    The bot on the umbilical cord reminds me of the game podules in the scifi film eXistenZ

  14. Le Samourai says:

    Sometimes you work on something for a year, and its still crap. At least its a private university!

  15. GeneralChat says:

    Finally, a gripper for the crane game that actually grips onto the prize!

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