Ryan L. Truby/Harvard University
Robots encased by plastic or rubber can endure the stress of constant movement, and also reduce the risk to workers that come into accidental contact with them. Currently, researchers are studying the effectiveness of "soft robots" inspired to move like animals, like caterpillars or worms, or an elephant's trunk.
Harvard research into soft robots has produced a soft robotic gripper with embedded sensors capable of receiving various inputs, e.g., movement, pressure, touch, temperature.
One robotic arm under development weighs only about 1 kilogram but can lift about five times that weight. Once scientists figure out how to balance between softness and power, the influence on industrial robotics applications could be consequential.