Scientists have made considerable progress with soft robots used for assistive wearables, rehabilitative technologies and more. Powered by compressed air, they offer advantages over regular robots like sensing capabilities, soft touch, and high power-to-input ratios.
Designing and building them has been a challenge, however, due to the need for a manual design and fabrication pipeline that requires a lot of trial and error. Now, scientists from MIT’s Computer Science and Artificial Intelligence Laboratory (CSAIL) have come up with a new pipeline called “PneuAct” that uses computers and a special knitting process to design and digitally fabricate the soft pneumatic actuators. Their work could eventually lead to new assistive and rehabilitative devices.