As a kid, you may have played with straws as a sort of cheap building toy, trying to combine them into new characters, or maybe even a “milk transporter” that never worked quite correctly. If you’ve since given up on these creations, perhaps they’re worth another look.
That’s because Harvard researchers George Whitesides and Alex Nemiroski have developed an arthropod insect-inspired walking system that uses straws as an exoskeleton. These straws are split to create joints, actuated by inflating short lengths of tubing in order to force them to extend. They then retract via a rubber tendon when deflated.
The straw-appendages were initially actuated by hand via a syringe, but the system was upgraded to use a compressor along with an Arduino board once the number of joints in use became unmanageable.
You can see a demo of the semi-soft robot, along with another one capable of striding across water, in the video below!
[h/t: Harvard Gazette]