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Sci-Tech

Harvard wants everyone to build soft robots

Harvard University labs has launched a toolkit that will supply robotics enthusiasts and researchers with the tools they need to design, build and operate soft robots.

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Screenshot by Michelle Starr/CNET

Want to build your own soft robots? Harvard University in collaboration with Dublin, Ireland's Trinity college have what you need. The two institutions have jointly launched a soft robotics toolkit that contains all the "intellectual" tools for enthusiasts and experienced robot builders to make their own.

You can't get parts from the website; instead, it contains information about the various parts you could use, giving you the information you need to shop around; downloadable, open-source plans; how-to videos; case studies; tutorials; raw experimental data; and sample code for controlling robotic systems.

It will also provide a common resource for sharing tips, designs, fabrication techniques and technical knowledge so that designers around the world can collaborate, learn from each other and build on each other's work.

"One thing we've seen in design courses is that students greatly benefit from access to more experienced peers -- say, postdocs in a research lab -- who can guide them through their work," said Trinity College's Dónal Holland, currently a visiting lecturer at the Harvard School of Engineering and Applied Sciences. "But scaling that up is difficult; you quickly run out of time and people. The toolkit is designed to capture the expertise and make it easily accessible to students."

And, Trinity College's Gareth Bennett, co-author of a paper describing the toolkit's development, added, "Open design can have as disruptive an influence on technology development in this century as open source did in the last."

You can watch a video about the toolkit below, and access it for free online from its official website.