A soft, four-wheeled robotic vehicle is powered by a unique soft engine. (Photo: Xiangyu Gong)

A small, squishy vehicle equipped with soft wheels was developed at Rutgers University to roll over rough terrain and run underwater. The vehicle features a soft motor that provides torque without bending or extending its housing.

The motors were made using 3D printed molds and soft lithography. Future possibilities include amphibious vehicles that could traverse rugged lakebeds; search and rescue missions in extreme environments and varied terrains, such as irregular tunnels; shock-absorbing vehicles that could be used as landers equipped with parachutes; and elbow-like systems with limbs on either side.