These almost-invisible robot hands can grab things quickly. MIT engineers have been working to create a durable gel formula that can be 3-D printed and laser cut into soft robotic parts, like flapping fish fins or gentle gripping fingers. From MIT.edu:

The robots are made entirely of hydrogel — a tough, rubbery, nearly transparent material that’s composed mostly of water. Each robot is an assemblage of hollow, precisely designed hydrogel structures, connected to rubbery tubes. When the researchers pump water into the hydrogel robots, the structures quickly inflate in orientations that enable the bots to curl up or stretch out…

To apply their hydrogel materials to soft robotics, the researchers first looked to the animal world. They concentrated in particular on leptocephali, or glass eels — tiny, transparent, hydrogel-like eel larvae that hatch in the ocean and eventually migrate to their natural river habitats.

“It is extremely long travel, and there is no means of protection,” Yuk says. “It seems they tried to evolve into a transparent form as an efficient camouflage tactic. And we wanted to achieve a similar level of transparency, force, and speed.”

The researchers envision a future where these hydrogel robot parts might help in medical operations or work as unseen underwater robots.

File under biomimicry. Next, check out Sticky Actuator: Inflatable stick-on ‘pouch motors’ and Dancing Paper, 8bit Harmonica, and Musical Umbrella.

via Boing Boing.

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