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iRobot shape-shifting ChemBot is back, and it's bad (video)

Joseph L. Flatley
October 14, 2009
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As you know, when iRobot isn't hard at work developing some adorable automated vacuum cleaners, it has a quite lucrative sideline in DARPA-funded research projects. On that front, it looks like we finally have some results to report back on that ChemBot project that first appeared on our radar early last year. Unveiled at the International Conference on Intelligent Robots and Systems (IROS) yesterday, this palm-sized troublemaker is being billed as "the first demonstration of a completely soft, mobile robot using jamming as an enabling technology." The "jamming" in question is something called "jamming skin enabled locomotion," which traps air and a collection of loosely packed particles in a package made of silicon rubber. When air is removed from the pocket, the silicon restricts and seems to solidify. The robot consists of several of these pockets, which can be inflated or deflated separately, giving the device the ability to perform simple actions. This is all pretty rudimentary at the moment, but who knows? We may see Flubber in our time, after all. Video after the break.

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