Pinball Wizard? Not yet… but this robotic hand loves Nintendo…

Who says robotics research isn’t fun? And what do robotics have to do with playing Nintendo? Let’s find out!

Recently, a research team at the University of Maryland 3D printed a soft robotic hand that is capable of playing Super Mario Bros. Now, to be clear, this robotic hand has only been able to successfully complete the first level in under 90 seconds. But hey: we all had to make the baby steps before confronting Bowser right?

The highlight of this research is the use of “soft robotics”. Soft robotics “centers on creating new types of flexible, inflatable robots that are powered using water or air rather than electricity.  Soft robots’ inherent safety and adaptability has sparked interest in their use for applications like prosthetics and biomedical devices.” (source)

Until now, controlling the fluids that makes the soft robots bend and move has been quite difficult. The main breakthrough that the team at the University of Maryland accomplished “was the ability to 3D print fully assembled soft robots with “integrated fluidic circuits” in a single step. “ (source)

In other words,  this team has basically developed what they are referring to as “fluidic transistors”.

Joshua Hubbard, one of the team members on the project explains this critical development:

“Previously, each finger of a soft robotic hand would typically need its own control line, which can limit portability and usefulness…but by 3D printing the soft robotic hand with our integrated ‘fluidic transistors’, it can play Nintendo based on just one pressure input.” (source)

Let’s take a look at the demo of the soft robotic hand cruising through level one of Super Mario Bros.

Pretty neat huh? If you’d like to learn more about soft robotics and what the Bioinspired Advanced Manufacturing (BAM) Laboratory at the University of Maryland are up to, check out the link below:
https://bam.umd.edu/

While we’re not building fluidic transistors (yet?) at Ohmify, please be on the lookout for the upcoming transistors course. We can’t wait!

What do you think about soft robotics and fluidic transistors? We’d love to hear your thoughts in the comments below.

Have fun everyone 😃 !

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