Dylan Drotman University of California, San Diego

Winner of an HP Workstation

This four-legged soft robot needs no electronics to work — only a constant source of pressurized air for all its functions including its controls and locomotion systems. Applications include robots that can operate in environments where electronics cannot function such as MRI machines or mine shafts. Soft robots are of particular interest because they easily adapt to their environment and operate safely near humans.

Most soft robots are powered by pressurized air and are controlled by electronic circuits; however, this approach requires complex components like circuit boards, valves, and pumps, often outside the robot’s body. By contrast, the new robot is controlled by a lightweight, low-cost system of pneumatic circuits, made up of tubes and soft valves onboard the robot itself. The robot can walk on command or in response to signals it senses from the environment.

The robot’s computational power roughly mimics mammalian reflexes that are driven by a neural response from the spine rather than the brain. To mimic these reflexes, a system of valves was created that acts as a group of oscillators, controlling the order in which pressurized air enters air-powered muscles in the robot’s four limbs. A component coordinates the robot’s gait by delaying the injection of air into the robot’s legs.

The robot is also equipped with simple mechanical sensors — little soft bubbles filled with fluid placed at the end of booms protruding from the robot’s body. When the bubbles are depressed, the fluid flips a valve in the robot that causes it to reverse direction. The robot is equipped with three valves acting as inverters that cause a high-pressure state to spread around the air-powered circuit, with a delay at each inverter.

Each of the robot’s four legs has three degrees of freedom powered by three muscles. The legs are angled downward at 45 degrees and composed of three parallel, connected, pneumatic cylindrical chambers with bellows. When a chamber is pressurized, the limb bends in the opposite direction. As a result, the three chambers of each limb provide multi-axis bending required for walking.

In the future, the robot would be improved to walk on natural terrain and uneven surfaces, allowing it to navigate over a variety of obstacles. This would require a more sophisticated network of sensors and as a result, a more complex pneumatic system.

For more information, visit here .

Read a Web-exclusive interview with researcher Dylan Drotman.


HONORABLE MENTIONS

The AI Armature

The Armature Project

Southern Taiwan University of Science and Technology, Taiwan

A prosthetic arm called AI Armature uses artificial intelligence and computer vision via smart glasses. A gesture control system reduces the effort needed by upper limb amputees to actuate their prosthetic hand.

For more information, visit here .


Cosmic Scale

The muons generate continuous 3D data.
Alexandre Junqueira and Erick Mascagni Ferdinando, Konker Labs, Sao Paulo, Brazil

Cosmic Scale uses cosmic muons attenuation data to generate continuous 3D information on big structures. As muons are freely available everywhere on Earth, this can be virtually done anywhere.

For more information, visit here .


Mo Wheelchair Combination

Vasilatos Ianis, Oradea, Romania
The Mo wheelchair

The Mo wheelchair is a lightweight solution that increases a person’s ability to take their chair over wet, muddy, or rough surfaces without causing undue stress on the physical environment or the person using the chair. It can be disassembled or folded quickly to a size small enough to transport.

For more information, visit here .


Solventless Silicone Release SLY-OFF™ SL 184 Coating

The mist generation is 28 times lower than conventional industrial mist.
Na Li, Zhenbin Niu, Pierre Chevalier, Thomas Davidian, Alex Knott, Nathalie Gerard, Alexandros Manikis, Alberto Petrosino, Brennan Macmillan, Celine Vlemincq, and Xiaoyun Chen, Dow Chemical Co., Midland, MI

This is an anti-mist additive and coating formulation with a mist generation that is 28 times lower than the industrial mist level threshold for high-speed release coating and labeling applications.

For more information, visit here .


See the rest of this year's winners:



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This article first appeared in the November, 2021 issue of Tech Briefs Magazine.

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