Placeholder Image

Subtitles section Play video

  • So, robots.

  • Robots can be programmed

  • to do the same task millions of times with minimal error,

  • something very difficult for us, right?

  • And it can be very impressive to watch them at work.

  • Look at them.

  • I could watch them for hours.

  • No?

  • What is less impressive

  • is that if you take these robots out of the factories,

  • where the environments are not perfectly known and measured like here,

  • to do even a simple task which doesn't require much precision,

  • this is what can happen.

  • I mean, opening a door, you don't require much precision.

  • (Laughter)

  • Or a small error in the measurements,

  • he misses the valve, and that's it --

  • (Laughter)

  • with no way of recovering, most of the time.

  • So why is that?

  • Well, for many years,

  • robots have been designed to emphasize speed and precision,

  • and this translates into a very specific architecture.

  • If you take a robot arm,

  • it's a very well-defined set of rigid links

  • and motors, what we call actuators,

  • they move the links about the joints.

  • In this robotic structure,

  • you have to perfectly measure your environment,

  • so what is around,

  • and you have to perfectly program every movement

  • of the robot joints,

  • because a small error can generate a very large fault,

  • so you can damage something or you can get your robot damaged

  • if something is harder.

  • So let's talk about them a moment.

  • And don't think about the brains of these robots

  • or how carefully we program them,

  • but rather look at their bodies.

  • There is obviously something wrong with it,

  • because what makes a robot precise and strong

  • also makes them ridiculously dangerous and ineffective in the real world,

  • because their body cannot deform

  • or better adjust to the interaction with the real world.

  • So think about the opposite approach,

  • being softer than anything else around you.

  • Well, maybe you think that you're not really able to do anything if you're soft,

  • probably.

  • Well, nature teaches us the opposite.

  • For example, at the bottom of the ocean,

  • under thousands of pounds of hydrostatic pressure,

  • a completely soft animal

  • can move and interact with a much stiffer object than him.

  • He walks by carrying around this coconut shell

  • thanks to the flexibility of his tentacles,

  • which serve as both his feet and hands.

  • And apparently, an octopus can also open a jar.

  • It's pretty impressive, right?

  • But clearly, this is not enabled just by the brain of this animal,

  • but also by his body,

  • and it's a clear example, maybe the clearest example,

  • of embodied intelligence,

  • which is a kind of intelligence that all living organisms have.

  • We all have that.

  • Our body, its shape, material and structure,

  • plays a fundamental role during a physical task,

  • because we can conform to our environment

  • so we can succeed in a large variety of situations

  • without much planning or calculations ahead.

  • So why don't we put some of this embodied intelligence

  • into our robotic machines,

  • to release them from relying on excessive work

  • on computation and sensing?

  • Well, to do that, we can follow the strategy of nature,

  • because with evolution, she's done a pretty good job

  • in designing machines for environment interaction.

  • And it's easy to notice that nature uses soft material frequently

  • and stiff material sparingly.

  • And this is what is done in this new field or robotics,

  • which is called "soft robotics,"

  • in which the main objective is not to make super-precise machines,

  • because we've already got them,

  • but to make robots able to face unexpected situations in the real world,

  • so able to go out there.

  • And what makes a robot soft is first of all its compliant body,

  • which is made of materials or structures that can undergo very large deformations,

  • so no more rigid links,

  • and secondly, to move them, we use what we call distributed actuation,

  • so we have to control continuously the shape of this very deformable body,

  • which has the effect of having a lot of links and joints,

  • but we don't have any stiff structure at all.

  • So you can imagine that building a soft robot is a very different process

  • than stiff robotics, where you have links, gears, screws

  • that you must combine in a very defined way.

  • In soft robots, you just build your actuator from scratch

  • most of the time,

  • but you shape your flexible material

  • to the form that responds to a certain input.

  • For example, here, you can just deform a structure

  • doing a fairly complex shape

  • if you think about doing the same with rigid links and joints,

  • and here, what you use is just one input,

  • such as air pressure.

  • OK, but let's see some cool examples of soft robots.

  • Here is a little cute guy developed at Harvard University,

  • and he walks thanks to waves of pressure applied along its body,

  • and thanks to the flexibility, he can also sneak under a low bridge,

  • keep walking,

  • and then keep walking a little bit different afterwards.

  • And it's a very preliminary prototype,

  • but they also built a more robust version with power on board

  • that can actually be sent out in the world and face real-world interactions

  • like a car passing it over it ...

  • and keep working.

  • It's cute.

  • (Laughter)

  • Or a robotic fish, which swims like a real fish does in water

  • simply because it has a soft tail with distributed actuation

  • using still air pressure.

  • That was from MIT,

  • and of course, we have a robotic octopus.

  • This was actually one of the first projects

  • developed in this new field of soft robots.

  • Here, you see the artificial tentacle,

  • but they actually built an entire machine with several tentacles

  • they could just throw in the water,

  • and you see that it can kind of go around and do submarine exploration

  • in a different way than rigid robots would do.

  • But this is very important for delicate environments, such as coral reefs.

  • Let's go back to the ground.

  • Here, you see the view

  • from a growing robot developed by my colleagues in Stanford.

  • You see the camera fixed on top.

  • And this robot is particular,

  • because using air pressure, it grows from the tip,

  • while the rest of the body stays in firm contact with the environment.

  • And this is inspired by plants, not animals,

  • which grows via the material in a similar manner

  • so it can face a pretty large variety of situations.

  • But I'm a biomedical engineer,

  • and perhaps the application I like the most

  • is in the medical field,

  • and it's very difficult to imagine a closer interaction with the human body

  • than actually going inside the body,

  • for example, to perform a minimally invasive procedure.

  • And here, robots can be very helpful with the surgeon,

  • because they must enter the body

  • using small holes and straight instruments,

  • and these instruments must interact with very delicate structures

  • in a very uncertain environment,

  • and this must be done safely.

  • Also bringing the camera inside the body,

  • so bringing the eyes of the surgeon inside the surgical field

  • can be very challenging if you use a rigid stick,

  • like a classic endoscope.

  • With my previous research group in Europe,

  • we developed this soft camera robot for surgery,

  • which is very different from a classic endoscope,

  • which can move thanks to the flexibility of the module

  • that can bend in every direction and also elongate.

  • And this was actually used by surgeons to see what they were doing

  • with other instruments from different points of view,

  • without caring that much about what was touched around.

  • And here you see the soft robot in action,

  • and it just goes inside.

  • This is a body simulator, not a real human body.

  • It goes around.

  • You have a light, because usually,

  • you don't have too many lights inside your body.

  • We hope.

  • (Laughter)

  • But sometimes, a surgical procedure can even be done using a single needle,

  • and in Stanford now, we are working on a very flexible needle,

  • kind of a very tiny soft robot

  • which is mechanically designed to use the interaction with the tissues

  • and steer around inside a solid organ.

  • This makes it possible to reach many different targets, such as tumors,

  • deep inside a solid organ

  • by using one single insertion point.

  • And you can even steer around the structure that you want to avoid

  • on the way to the target.

  • So clearly, this is a pretty exciting time for robotics.

  • We have robots that have to deal with soft structures,

  • so this poses new and very challenging questions

  • for the robotics community,

  • and indeed, we are just starting to learn how to control,

  • how to put sensors on these very flexible structures.

  • But of course, we are not even close to what nature figured out

  • in millions of years of evolution.

  • But one thing I know for sure:

  • robots will be softer and safer,

  • and they will be out there helping people.

  • Thank you.

  • (Applause)

So, robots.

Subtitles and vocabulary

Click the word to look it up Click the word to find further inforamtion about it

B1 US TED soft robot body robotics rigid

【TED】Giada Gerboni: The incredible potential of flexible, soft robots (The incredible potential of flexible, soft robots | Giada Gerboni)

  • 501 54
    林宜悉 posted on 2018/07/05
Video vocabulary