Life-like robots closer to reality

A composite soft matter computer with two receptors ( Garrad et al., Sci. Robot/PA)

The possibilities are expanding with further development into robotics. Researchers at the University of Bristol have demonstrated that life-like robots that can make decisions, adapt to their environment and learn, are one step closer to becoming reality.

They have developed a new way of embedding computation into soft robotic materials, creating new robotic possibilities to environmental monitoring, pollution clean-up, drug delivery, prosthetic devices, wearable biosensing and self-healing composites.

We have taken an important step toward entirely soft, autonomous robots and for smart materials to move beyond stimulus-response relationships which could enable the intelligent behaviours seen in living organisms. Soft robots could become even more life-like; capable of independently adapting to their environment and can demonstrate the diversity of behaviours seen in the natural world.

Jonathan Rossiter, Professor of Robotics

The concept of Soft Matter Computers (SMCs) takes inspiration from biology, and is set out in the Science Robotics journal.

A concept for an entirely soft, entirely autonomous gecko-shaped robot with integrated soft matter computer control (Garrad et al, Sci Robot/PA)

It aims to mimic the workings of the vascular system, where hormones such as adrenaline are released into the bloodstream and disperse throughout the body.

Responses in particular parts of the body are triggered when the hormones are detected by a receptor.

The researchers from Bristol’s Faculty of Engineering demonstrated a new mechanism that enabled computation to be embedded into three soft robots.

In the study, they describe how a conductive fluid receptor (CFR) is a viable and fundamental building block for a range of SMCs and next-generation robots.

According to the scientists, the soft matter computers could mirror this process by translating information within the structure of a fluidic tape that travels through the soft body of the robot, and then is detected by an appropriate receptor and then generates an output.

These findings demonstrate another way in which research and development is changing the way that we live. We have worked with many clients such as Brainomix and Pop-Bio, who are making strides in technology which will impact life as we know it. With the help of government incentives R&D tax credits and Patent Box, they have been able to release funds which proved vital to continuing their projects. Speak to one of our technical specialists to find out if you are eligible for this relief.