Robotists have 3D printed a soft robotic hand agile enough to play Nintendo’s Super Mario Bros video game and win!
The feat accomplished by the team led by Ryan D. Sochol, a professor at the University of Maryland in the United States, demonstrates a promising innovation in the field of soft robotics. This class of robotics focuses on creating new types of flexible and inflatable robots that are generally powered by water or air rather than electricity. The safety and adaptability inherent in soft robots have sparked interest for their use in applications such as prosthetics and biomedical devices. Unfortunately, controlling the fluids that make these squishy robots bend and move has been especially difficult – until now.
As a demonstration, the team designed an integrated fluidic circuit that allowed the hand to function in response to the force of a single control pressure. For example, when applying low pressure, only the first finger would press the controller of the Nintendo console to make Mario walk, while high pressure would cause Mario to jump. Guided by a program that autonomously switched between low, medium and high pressures, the robotic hand was able to press the buttons on the controller to successfully complete the first level of Super Mario Bros in less than 90 seconds.
Another important achievement has been the success of the manufacturing technique used by Sochol and his colleagues, with which it is possible to print in 3D, and in a single step, fully assembled soft robots with integrated fluidic circuits.
A team of researchers from the University of Maryland has 3D printed a soft robotic hand agile enough to play Nintendo’s Super Mario Bros video game – and win! (Photo: University of Maryland)
The choice to validate his strategy by beating the first level of Super Mario Bros in real time was motivated by science as much as fun. Since the timing and composition of the video game levels are well established, and a single mistake can lead to immediate game termination, playing that video game provided the robotists with a new and clear way to evaluate the performance of soft robots. .
Currently, the team is exploring the use of their technique for biomedical applications, such as rehabilitation devices, surgical tools and customizable prosthetics.
Sochol’s team presents the technical details of its technological advance in the academic journal Science Advances, under the title “Fully 3D-printed soft robots with integrated fluidic circuitry.” This work stars on the cover. (Source: NCYT from Amazings)