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Today's Video

Soft 'vine robots' grow into solutions

Animals inspire many designs for robots, from the gecko-inspired StickyBot to RoboBees. But mechanical engineers at Stanford University looked to the plant world for bio-inspiration. With support from the National Science Foundation, researchers at Stanford University and the University of California, Santa Barbara, are building soft robots inspired by vines. The form and nature of vines are ideal for threading through narrow spaces, whether those spaces are within the human body or at a disaster site. Imagine a vine robot becoming a water hose that grows to a fire or an oxygen tube that grows to a trapped disaster victim. The team is also engineering vine robots with the ability to configure themselves into 3-D structures, such as manipulators and antennae for communication. Vine robots are one type of soft robot, an emerging area of robotics engineering. Soft robots incorporate versatility, adaptability and pliability to function more like natural organisms and to allow humans and soft robots to work safely together.

Provided by National Science Foundation
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