Soft robots typically have squishy bodies and limbs so that they can squeeze into the tightest spaces. If they're to be used for search and reconnaissance missions, though, they'll need to be able to navigate rough terrains. A team of engineers from the University of California San Diego have created a soft robot that can do just that. They made a four-legged machine that can not only wriggle into confined spaces, but also climb over obstacles and walk on sand, pebbles, rocks and even inclined surfaces. The team's secret? A high-end 3D printer that can print soft and rigid materials together.
The robot moves by pumping air into its legs, which are inflatable chambers that are hollow on the inside. When one leg is inflated and the others aren't, for instance, the inflated leg bends. The machine can also easily transition from a crawling to a walking position, and vice versa. At this point in time, the current model still has to be tethered to an open source board and an air pump, but the team is working on making a smaller version that can move freely.
You can check out the robot walk on sand and rockets in the video below: