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Picture of the Day

No more Iron Man: Submarines now have soft, robotic arms

The human arm can perform a wide range of extremely delicate and coordinated movements, from turning a key in a lock to gently stroking a puppy's fur. The robotic "arms" on underwater research submarines, however, are hard, jerky and lack the finesse to be able to reach and interact with creatures like jellyfish or octopuses without damaging them. Previously, National Science Foundation-funded researchers and collaborators developed a range of soft robotic grippers to more safely handle delicate sea life, but those gripping devices still relied on hard, robotic submarine arms that made it difficult to maneuver them into various positions in the water. Now, a new system uses a glove equipped with wireless soft sensors to control a modular, soft robotic "arm" that can flex and move with unprecedented dexterity to grasp and sample delicate aquatic life. This system could one day enable the creation of submarine-based research labs, where all the delicate tasks scientists do in a land-based laboratory could be done at the bottom of the ocean. Insights from this work could potentially have value for medical device applications as well.

Visit Website | Image credit: Brennan Phillips/Wyss Institute at Harvard University