SCIENCE
09/15/2014 08:50 am ET Updated Dec 06, 2017

This Freaky 'Soft Robot' Can Survive All Sorts Of Torture

A snowstorm can't stop it. A blazing fire can't stop it. And even getting run over by a car is no problem for this squishy little bot.

Researchers from Harvard University have developed a soft robot that not only can stand up and walk on its own, but also withstand tough elements all while carrying the equipment it needs on its back -- from its microcompressors to control systems to batteries. Just check it out in the video above, which was recently posted to the university's YouTube account.

"We're looking at the first untethered soft robot that is able to move around without rigid, structural components," Mike Tolley, a research associate at the university who has worked on the robot, says in the video. "It turns out that the whole system operates very well at low or high temperatures."

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The untethered soft robot walking over flames.

For a study describing the as-yet-unnamed robot, the researchers tested the machine by making it trudge through a New England snowstorm, walk over flames, and having its "limbs" driven over by a car -- and, yes, the bot survived.

Why torture the bot like this? The study may shed light on how soft robots can be used in search and rescue missions, during which a bot could navigate through tough terrain often found at disaster sites.

"This is a good example of how soft robotics can help build very robust devices, with very low risk of damage," Cecilia Laschi, a biorobotics professor at the Sant'Anna School of Advanced Studies in Pisa, Italy, who was not involved in the study, told NewScientist. "The field of soft robotics is now becoming mature enough to show effective applications."

The study was published online in the journal Soft Robotics on August 25, 2014.

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