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Are inflatable robots more than just hot air?

The pneumatic Ant-Roach is great for giving kids a thrill. But now someone has to invent a giant bug swatter.


The one good thing about inflatable robots is that all you need to disable them is a sharp object. Just remember that if they try to enslave us.

This is Ant-Roach, a pneumatic robot that weighs about 70 pounds and can carry loads that are much heavier. It was designed by San Francisco-based Otherlab "to demonstrate the carrying capacity and high strength-to-weight ratios possible with inflatable structures."

In several videos, Ant-Roach is seen carrying kids on its back while it moves its six legs back and forth in a very slow walk. Watch it stumbling around in the sped-up videos here.

The beast has textile actuators that contract when inflated with compressed air. A microcontroller runs the muscle network, and is controlled wirelessly via laptop.

Of course, compressed air has been used for decades to power robotic devices, not least of which are the Actroid androids from Japan.

Since they're tethered to large air compressors, locomotion tends to be zero to limited.

But that doesn't mean they're useless. Their soft exterior makes them ideal for use around humans, and they have high ratios of strength to weight. They're also relatively inexpensive.

Otherlab's prototype articulated inflatable robot arm, seen below, is apparently able to lift a person with 50-60 psi even though it weighs only 2 pounds.

If the arm could move and grasp object with precision, repetition, and speed, industrial applications alongside human workers may be possible at reduced cost.

Meanwhile, giving the Ant-Roach more moving appendages would make it all the more fun for kids.

(Via Hizook)