Tech

Watch this soft robot play piano using 'air-powered' memory

A team of researchers at UC Riverside have developed a pneumatic computer memory to help soft robots play piano.

UC Riverside

The world of soft robotics can be terrifying on the surface: Robots constructed with compliant material to better-resemble a living organism both in form and function.

Boston Globe/Boston Globe/Getty Images

About a week ago a group of engineers at UC Riverside created an air-powered computer memory to fine-tune soft robots movements, eliminating the need for bulkier hardware like electronic valves and computers.

UC Riverside

UC Riverside
Although you can’t hear it, this soft robot is playing “Mary Had a Little Lamb.”UC Riverside

“The researchers made their pneumatic random-access memory, or RAM, chip using microfluidic valves instead of electronic transistors...Dense arrays of these valves can perform advanced operations and reduce the expensive, bulky, and power-consuming electronic hardware typically used to control pneumatic robots.”

Holly Ober

UC Riverside

Ultimately the end result of the project was the production of an 8-bit pneumatic RAM chip able to control larger and faster-moving soft robots, which was incorporated into a pair of 3-D printed rubber hands.

UC Riverside

UC Riverside

When soft robotics is applied to something like an autonomous dog it can feel daunting but there’s something much less ominous associated with live instrumentation.

PLOS One

“In theory, this system could be used to operate other robots without any electronic hardware and only a battery-powered pump to create a vacuum...Robots using this technology would be especially safe for delicate use on or around humans, such as wearable devices for infants with motor impairments.”

Holly Ober

UC Riverside

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