Scientists say that the advancement in material sciences, algorithms and manufacturing processes have given a major boost to the field of robotics and it has led to a revolution in the robotic materials. The way for development of prosthetics (artificial body parts) with a realistic sense of touch has been made smoother with the use of nature inspired robotic materials. Following this, now it is even possible to construct bridges that can self-repair themselves and vehicles that have camouflaging abilities just like animals and insects.
They wanted that while materials can already be programmed to change some of their properties in response to a specific stimulus, there should be such robotic materials that can sense stimuli and determine how to respond to it on their own. To develop nature inspired robotic materials, they worked on the example of artificial skin equipped with microphones which would analyze the sounds of a texture rubbing the skin and transmit information back to the central computer only when important events occurred. Correll said in a review published in a science journal that the human sensory system has the capability to automatically filter out things like the feeling of clothes rubbing on the skin. He added that an artificial skin with possibly thousands of sensors could do the same thing and it would only report to the Brain if it touches something new.
The development of all these sort of nature inspired robotic materials is now possible, but manufacturing of these materials on a large scale still remains to be a challenge. Moreover, researchers say that this field faces an education gap as developing robotic material require interdisciplinary knowledge which is currently not available through any of the material sciences, computer sciences or robotics curriculum alone.
Correll believes that in the future, the use of nature inspired robotic materials is going to be ever-widening. For him, robotic materials, in future, are going to be used in everyday life items like shoes soles that can sense pressure and then adapt their stiffness to adjust while walking or running.
These findings were originally published in journal Science.
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