The world of robotics is fascinating, but is it possible create a robot without electronic components? A group of engineers from the University of California (San Diego) has shown that yes, thanks to a very interesting project that they have used to shape a robot that works with air, and without electronics.
This robot has a quadruped shape, as we can see in the images, and in the attached video, and only need a small constant source of pressurized air to be able to perform all its functions. As we anticipated, it does not have any type of electronics, and despite everything it has control and locomotion systems. According to those responsible for this project, this is a very important achievement that could pave the way for the development of more complex robots, capable of walking autonomously and without depending on electronics.
There is no doubt that this robot also represents an important step forward in everything related to the application of low-cost robotics, a very broad field that includes sectors as lucrative as toys, and also those in which, due to the particularities of the environment, the electronic components are not viable, such as in places that use MRI machines or in mine shafts.
Soft robots controlled by pneumatic systems: a return to the past
And very curious. I am sure many of our readers will remember what the computer world was like in the 1930s and 1940s, before the advent of transistors. These computers were huge, inefficient, and used a combination of electromechanical components that included vacuum tubes and relays, a concept that ended up being displaced by the second generation of computers that, in the late 1950s, they replaced the vacuum tubes with transistors.
The robot developed by the group of engineers at the University of California reminds me a lot of that primitive approach of the first generation of computerssince, unlike “traditional” robots based on pressurized air, which use an electronic circuit system for their control, it is based on a set of pneumatic circuits very light and inexpensive, made up of soft tubes and valves that are perfectly integrated into the robot.
This soft robot could work in environments forbidden to electronic models, and furthermore, being a “soft” model, it also can work with humans in complete safety. According to those responsible for the project, he is able to recognize simple commands and walk when asked.
To shape this project, the engineers were inspired by mammals, specifically the reflexes that are produced by the neuronal response of the spine, and not the brain, and built a system of valves that act as oscillators capable of controlling the order of entry of pressurized air in the “muscles”, which end up being propelled by the incoming air, which allows the robot’s four legs to move in an orderly manner.
In order to avoid any problem, it has been integrated a component that delays the entry of air into the legs, and have also been implemented mechanical sensors soft in the form of small bubbles filled with liquid, located at the end of the arms of the robot, which serve to reverse the direction of the robot when pressure is produced on said sensors. The robot’s legs are divided into three “muscles,” slant down at a 45-degree angle, and their movement is reminiscent of a turtle’s gait. It is impressive, do not miss the video.