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Robotics experts claim that the future of the industry lies in shape-changing robots. Such robots provide unrivaled adaptability and versatility, and show promise in domains like healthcare, space exploration, disaster response, and other industries due to their ability to change shape to fit various activities and circumstances.

In a significant breakthrough, engineers at the University of Colorado Boulder have developed a spider-inspired shape-changing robot that is only two centimeters long and weighs just 0.97 grams.

The robot is called “mCLARI”, and can naturally alter its shape, allowing it to maneuver through narrow places in various directions without controlling its movements, a passive shape-changing function that lets it travel quickly through confined or challenging terrains.

According to the team’s official release, the robot’s miniature size was made possible through an origami-based design and laminate fabrication technique. Thanks to the design that combines the flexibility of a soft robot with the agility of a rigid robot, this quadrupedal microrobot can carry a payload of over three times its weight despite its size.

According to Interesting Engineering, the robot also exhibits a novel ability to move in all directions within confined spaces known as “omnidirectional laterally confined locomotion.” Practical tests demonstrated impressive running performance, reaching a new unrestricted top speed of 3 times its body length per second.

The practical uses of such a versatile robot include supporting first responders in the aftermath of disaster (thanks to its capacity to move forward and sideways inside constrained places through shape-changing), as well as the examination and maintenance of complex machines like jet engines.

When it comes to the discussion of size, Kaushik Jayaram who led the development states: “Since these robots can deform, you can still have slightly larger sizes. If you have a slightly larger size, you can carry more weight. You can have more sensors. You’ll have a longer lifetime and be more stable. But when you need to, you can squish through and go into those specific gaps, such as inspection access ports in a jet engine.”

Thanks to this major advancement, the development team moved one step closer to creating insect-sized robots that can navigate natural surfaces as effectively as their real counterparts. Jayaram further states that they are “fundamentally interested in understanding why animals are the way they are and move the way they do, and how we can build bioinspired robots that can address social needs, like search and rescue, environmental monitoring or even use them during surgery.”

This information was provided by Interesting Engineering.