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Soft Robotics: Robots Morph to Better Interact with Humans

By Dick Weisinger

Robots are getting soft.  They are changing and being designed in new ways to allow better and safer interactions with humans.  Soft robotics is a new field of robots that are built with soft elastic materials. Software and hardware designers, material scientists, and mechanical and biomechanical engineers are all involved in the design of this new class of robots.

The size of the soft robotics market was estimated at $315 million in 2017 and is expected to reach $3.3 billion by 2023 with an average annual growth rate of more than 40 percent.

A survey of the state of soft robotics by researchers at NASA JPL found that “the past few years have brought many exciting developments to the field of soft robotics. New approaches in sensing and actuation, new materials and material architectures, and dramatic improvements in existing technologies have yielded highly functional soft devices and robots… In the near future, advances in the field will begin to yield new consumer, healthcare and industrial technologies that will have a transformative impact on how we interact with machines and electronics. Such advancements will require continued progress in soft multifunctional materials as well as breakthroughs in bio-hybrid engineering and modelling, controls and machine intelligence for soft robot autonomy.”

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