A Robot with an Inflatable Arm

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More and more industries are using inflatables beyond what most of us see them as – sky dancers, advertising blimps and bounce houses. This is not to say that these uses are not equally as valid as others, it is just interesting to look at how differently they can applied depending on the situation. Take the use of inflatables in space that we discussed two weeks ago – it’s definitely outside of the box for standard inflatables!

According to Wired, developers are working on making robots more maneuverable and lightweight. To do so, the Pentagon has given a $625,000 grant to a company to development an inflatable robot arm:

“The Pentagon’s far-out research arm Darpa is preparing to award a $625,000 contract to iRobot — famous for its vacuum robot ‘Roomba’ —  for an inflatable robotic arm. Called the Advanced Inflatable Robot, or AIR, the arm can lift four times its own weight and operates on principles less similar to a balloon than a car tire.”

Making robots lighter is important, the article says, so that it’s easier for military members to carry them around. Also, the heavyweight arms on traditional robots simply do not have any finesse in dangerous situations. Currently the arm only weighs half a pound, but can lift 6 times its own weight:

“…by increasing the arm’s internal pressure, the arm would be able to lift heavier objects. At the same time, the arm’s pressure is designed to scale. If the robot runs into the wall, the arm would buckle instead of punching through it.”

Beyond the striking abilities these inflatable arms possess, they are also inexpensive, making them very easy to fit into federal budgets:

“That squishy bot also costs less than $100, and in the future, Darpa believes they could cost as little as a few dollars, according to an agency statement.”