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Soft robot plays piano thanks to ‘air-powered’ memory

Soft robots still tend to rely on hard-boiled electronics to function, but a brand-new invention might shorten that need for unyielding microchips. UC Riverside investigates have developed pneumatic computer memory that they used to help a soft robot comedy the piano.

Instead of conventional transistors and electric circuits, the “air-powered” memory relies on microfluidic valves that verify airflow. Atmospheric pressure in a handed valve represents a binary “0, ” while a vacuum-clean demonstrates a “1. ” The investigates’ retention has a complex-enough array of these valves to function like an 8-bit Ram microchip — not exactly strong, but good enough that a duet of soft robot entrusts can play “Mary Had a Little Lamb” at a sluggish but steady pace.

The absence of positive distres draws this particularly safe — there’s no danger of the remembrance exploding in mid-use.

The technology is far from ready for everyday use. Besides needed improvements to complexity and moved, a robot would need soft versions of processors and other components to wholly eliminate the need for rigid electronics. The purpose is clear, nonetheless. Pneumatic remembrance could at least shorten the need for chips in soft robots, and drawn attention to a future of totally resilient robotics that shouldn’t hurt you if there’s a collision.

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