iRobot Unveils Morphing Blob Robot (w/ Video)

Oct 15, 2009 by Lisa Zyga weblog
The blob bot uses a jamming mechanism to change its shape and roll, enabling it to squeeze into small spaces. Credit: iRobot.

(PhysOrg.com) -- iRobot's latest robot is unique on many levels. The doughy blob moves by inflating and deflating - a new technique its developers call "jamming." As the researchers explain in the video below, the jamming mechanism enables the robot to transition from a liquid-like to a solid-like state.

Earlier this week, researchers from iRobot and the University of Chicago presented the new "blob bot" at the IEEE/RSJ International Conference on Intelligent Robots and Systems.

This video is not supported by your browser at this time.

As a new kind of chemical robot (or chembot), the blob bot has stretchy silicone skin, which is composed of multiple cellular compartments that each contain a "jammable slurry." When some of these cells are unjammed, and an actuator in the center of the robot is inflated, the robot inflates in the areas of the unjammed cells. By controlling which cells are unjammed, the researchers can change the shape of the robot and make it roll in a specific direction.

The new robot is being funded by DARPA, which gave iRobot $3.3 million to work on the chembot last year. The goal is to build a robot that can squeeze through tiny openings smaller than its own dimensions, which could be valuable in a variety of missions. The video shows the from about one year ago, and since then the researchers have been working on adding sensors and connecting multiple blob bots together.


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via: IEEE Spectrum

© 2009 PhysOrg.com

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User comments : 4

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otto1923
not rated yet Oct 16, 2009
I waiting for programmable matter. This blob stuff seems a little crude like 'The Pump' basketball shoes.
wildcatherder
not rated yet Oct 18, 2009
I fail to see what advantage is conveyed by using the slurry-to-solid change in this application. If you have to have air lines and some kind of internal volumetric displacement device, those forces could drive the movement directly.

(The use of a loud music track in demos is extemely annoying.)
abhishekbt
not rated yet Oct 19, 2009
The bot looks like a small baby to me...
Taking its first steps and unsure of where and how to go, rickety at best.

I am sure with time this technology will mature and take confident strides ahead !
Swamptortoise
not rated yet Oct 20, 2009
What's the power source? Lithium batteries I imagine.