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Soft robotics opens up new possibilities for fourth industrial revolution

 
Artificial intelligence and self-driving cars are some of the technological advancements that highlight the ingenuity of the so-called 4th industrial revolution. But a new type of robot has been developed, showing people a further glimpse into the future.
 
Our Lee Ji-won tells us more.
 
Robots are often depicted as big, boxy machines made of steel. But that stereotype may not hold true in the near future,... because in the fourth industrial revolution... a new type of robot is starting to emerge.
 
This team specializes in soft robotics, and develops non-rigid robots made from silicone, rubber and other soft materials... to better replicate the movements of living creatures and perform tasks that existing robots can't.
 
Among the many projects on the team's to-do list, the Exo-Glove Poly is one to keep an eye on.
 
The glove is designed to help people who suffer from paralysis of the hand and fingers... by enabling them to grasp and pinch objects.
 
"It works like the human hand,... when the tendons that run through the glove are pulled, the fingers close and grasp the object."
 
The gadget has been gaining a positive response worldwide... for its portability, simple yet compact features and user convenience, including its washable materials.
 
And on top of the new possibilities the gadget offers people with difficulties moving their hands,... it's also served as an inspiration to its developers.
 
robotics and new possibilities
 
"By participating in the research for Exo-Glove Poly, I saw how even a small robot could be a big help to people with disabilities. I felt a strong motivation to continue developing robots for rehabilitation."
 
Over in another corner of the lab... is a small robot with transformable origami wheels... that can change size and shape,... depending on the circumstances.
 
"This is a search and rescue robot. Its wheels will shrink when it needs to squeeze itself into a narrow passageway,... but when it needs to climb stairs and go over rocky surfaces, the wheels get bigger."
 
Having spent time developing this new kind of robot, the team is familiar with the challenges... and the failures that can come long before any success.
 
But the researcher says that it is from those failures that innovative ideas arise,... and that transforming his ideas into working robots is what made him excited about soft robotics.
 
"When developing these soft robots, we have to think from scratch,... because they run very differently from rigid ones. But it is for that reason that we can think outside the box and really be able to implement more of our ideas in the robots."
 
Their work and open approach are already attracting many young researchers.
 
"People in wheelchairs have difficulty when they encounter obstacles in their path. So I want to develop a spider-leg like chair that can just take giant steps and walk over it."
 
Although soft robotics is relatively new,... many researchers say it will eventually come to define the field.
 
"Many robot engineers will agree that the perfect robot is a living organism. And I believe... these soft robots will eventually open up a whole new paradigm in robotics. And our professor says, in the future,... soft robotics won't be the sub-topic, but will define robotics itself."
 

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