We’ve seen a lot of unnerving movement from robots lately. Boston Dynamics robots have danced their way into the internet’s hearts and nightmares (opens in new tab) with their smooth moves. They can even do parkour, well sometimes (opens in new tab). Well here are some robots with even smoother moves, kind of.
Soft robotics engineers in China have demonstrated some impressive movement from this weird black floppy disc (not that kind) that kinda looks like a manta ray if being polite, but more like a Magikarp using splash in action. Presumably unlike a Magikarp, they work by changing the distribution of fluids within the flexible discs. This gives them the ability to do rapid controlled, steered jumps (opens in new tab). This means they can move in potentially any direction, including upwards, even if there’s something in the way.
Reported by The Register (opens in new tab) these robots don't look very impressive in the video. At all, really. But these discs can use these electrical redistributions of liquid to 7.68 times their own body height. They’re very light and thin, weighing 1 gram with a length of 6.5cms so it doesn’t look like much but considering future applications this is definitely a robot worth cowering to.
Of course, a Magikarp can jump much higher if the Magikarp Jump game is anything to go by, but Pokemon are a tough comparison. Nature is also full of creatures that can jump much higher respective to their size, especially when looking at insects and fish. With a height close enough to 10 times their size these can jump nearly as high, relatively speaking, as the Klipspringer (opens in new tab), which is still pretty dope.
These new feats in soft robotics help to give these Stunfisk lookalikes increased mobility as well as being able to detect environmental changes. The researchers are hoping to move to untethered models soon, so you might just see these flapping about the place
Perhaps we should not be fearing the hard, rigid bodies of the dancing Boston Dynamics robots. Instead we should begin preparation for the war against the soft bodied flappies, which I'm slightly more concerned about.