In a dystopian turn of events, this self-healing robot regenerates after being stabbed
The ability to self-heal – it’s the elusive quality that all neurotic millennials lust after. Alas, meditative 20-somethings have been beaten to it by roboticists at the Vrije Universiteit Brussel (VUB), who have created a soft robot with the capacity to regenerate itself.
The robots comprised a gripper, a robotic hand and an artificial muscle out of rubbery polymers that resemble jelly. When something harms (a knife, for example) the robot, all you need to do is apply a little bit of heat (80˚C or so, for 40 minutes) and the polymers will link back together, in effect healing the robotic hand.
If, like me, you were baffled as to what the application of this technology would be, the answer lies in factories. Soft, regenerative, robotic hands – how’s that for the creepiest concept in the world? – could be used alongside humans in factories in order to avoid harmful accidents. Or rather, to simply regenerate themselves when harmed in said accidents, in turn saving humans the strife. Another possible application is in the food industry, as the soft hands are good at handling delicate items such as fruit and vegetables.
At the moment, the robots require heat application to galvanise the self-healing process, but researcher leader Professor Bram Vanderborght and his colleagues are optimistic about the future. They want to make the regenerative properties automatic, he said: “At the moment when ordinary robot parts break they have to be replaced, but that’s soon going to change.”
The team, who are backed by the European Research Council, hopes that the research will have far-reaching implications for the way humans perceive robots. “We hope that humans will develop a new kind of trust in robots, knowing that their functional performance is not depending on the human detection and repair of damages,” said the team in a statement. There you have it. Self-healing robots, coming to a yoga studio/meditation centre/branch of Anthropologie near you.