University of Maryland researchers have 3D-printed a soft robotic hand that can successfully play Nintendo's 1980s mega-hit Super Mario Bros. Soft robotics entails new types of flexible or inflatable robots that are powered by water or air, instead of electricity, according to a release from the university.
The team, led by University of Maryland assistant professor of mechanical engineering Ryan D. Sochol, 3D-printed fully assembled robot parts with integrated fluidic circuits in one go, the key to this agile gamer bot's Nintendo skills. It's like a fully automated Power Glove but only half as cursed.
The team designed an integrated fluidic circuit, which let the hand operate in response to the strength of a single control pressure, according to the release. Using PolyJet 3D Printing -- a type of layered printing that stacks many layers of multi-material in 3D -- also saved the team time while building. The research was published in Science Advances on July 14.
"Previously, each finger of a soft robotic hand would typically need its own control line, which can limit portability and usefulness," the study's co-author Joshua Hubbard said in the release. "But by 3D printing the soft robotic hand with our integrated 'fluidic transistors,' it can play Nintendo based on just one pressure input."
While playing the game, low pressure on the robot's first finger could make Mario walk and high pressure made him jump. The team set up a program that switched between off, low, medium and high pressures, and as a result, the robot hand beat the first level of Super Mario Bros. in under 90 seconds.
But, why video games? The Mario games' timing and level structures were a good testing ground for the robot hand. Also, it's fun.
Check out this video from Sochol about the robot hand's video gaming exploits: