Now you can include a computer in your project super cheap!
The future doesn’t need builders and mechanics, everything will be built by robots!
In engineering today, we usually think about how to control every little thing. But some tasks can be so complex to figure out that manual programming is nearly impossible. That’s when self learning systems can become a huge advantage. Instead of controlling every little line of code, you allow the system to try different movements, saving the one that kind of works, then try new movements based on that. By the trial and error method, the robot will find the best locomotion technique for its own shape, whether it is walking, jumping, rolling or moves that no human have ever thought about before! This is very similar to how evolution works and it can be used for robots as well, as demonstrated in this video from IEEE Spectrum. You loose detailed control, your robot might not choose the solution you think is the right one, and at the end you will probably have no idea how the program actually work, but the robot moves! This is the very frontier of robot development!
The standard way to add movement to an object today is to add more rigid parts and combine them with joints. But this is not a good solution because the more parts your mechanism has, the number of potential problems increases. Wouldn’t it be great if you could add movement to your mechanics, without adding any parts? This is where material elasticity comes into play. The people at Michigan Engineering knows all about the power of flexibility and talk about them in this video. Whenever functionality is incorporated into the structural material itself, reliability goes up, and the cost on manufacturing tends to go down. Also, since it is flexible, it will automatically handle any sudden impacts that would leave a more rigid part in pieces!
From the very beginning of robotics, mankind have tried to force rigid structures like steel and hard plastics to move. But if you view the natural world from an engineers perspective, you will see tons of robots, not being made up out of only rigid parts, but both rigid and flexible. Modern robotics tries to learn from natures success, and in this video from IEEE Spectrum you can see how effective soft robotics can be!