If you’re concerned about all of these new robotics contributions having a negative impact n the world’s supply of power, Cornell University’s Collective Embodied Intelligence Lab may have just invented a robot to allay your worries.
The soft robot is actually powered by popcorn and has been developed to grab objects from underneath it. A flexible shell is stuffed with un-popped corn kernels and then hooked up to a thin nichrome wire. When the wire heats up, it causes the kernels to blow up and pop (just like if you were using a popcorn machine) and this causes the digits to curl up and grab the object beneath them.
“The goal of our lab is to try to make very minimalistic robots which, when deployed in high numbers, can still accomplish great things,” co-researcher Steven Ceron explained.
“Simple robots are cheap and less prone to failures and wear, so we can have many operating autonomously over a long time. So we are always looking for new and innovative ideas that will permit us to have more functionalities for less, and popcorn is one of those.”
Although the robot probably won’t have many convincing applications yet, the researchers explained it demonstrates that not all robots have to be the same, powered by battery or mainline power. There are alternatives and robotics developers need to be more creative.
“Robotics is really good at embracing new ideas, and we can be super creative about what we use to generate multifunctional properties,” added Kirstin H Petersen, assistant professor of electrical and computer engineering.
“In the end we come up with very simple solutions to fairly complex problems. We don’t always have to look for high-tech solutions. Sometimes the answer is right in front of us.”