X

See a clever electronics-free robot go for an air-powered stroll

Believe it or not, I'm walking on air.

amandakooser.jpg
amandakooser.jpg
Amanda Kooser
Freelance writer Amanda C. Kooser covers gadgets and tech news with a twist for CNET. When not wallowing in weird gear and iPad apps for cats, she can be found tinkering with her 1956 DeSoto.
Amanda Kooser
softrobotucsd
Enlarge Image
softrobotucsd

This soft robot relies on pressurized air to function.

University of California, San Diego

When we think of what makes robots tick, we usually think of their electronic components. But robots don't have to be incredibly complicated, and a team of researchers figured out how to build a robot that doesn't need electronics at all. 

Engineers at the University of California, San Diego built a soft quadruped robot that can go for a walk using pressurized air and a system of valves to control its movements. There are no circuit boards to be found on the creation.

The UCSD Jacobs School of Engineering released a video this week showing the charming robot and its tubular legs taking a stroll. The leg movements mimic those of a sideneck turtle, which is known for its long neck and distinctive walking gait.

The team published a study on the robot in the journal Science Robotics on Wednesday. "Our focus here was to make the simplest air-powered nervous system needed to control walking," said co-author Michael Tolley, a mechanical engineering professor at UCSD. 

The researchers see a future for electronics-free soft robots as toys or in places like mine shafts or MRI machines, where electronics aren't safe to deploy. 

The team members want to continue development of the robot as they work to improve the gadget's ability to tackle more-challenging terrain and obstacles. Said lead author Dylan Drotman, "This work represents a fundamental yet significant step towards fully-autonomous, electronics-free walking robots."