TIME robotics

‘Soft Robots’ Look Nothing Like the Machines You Know

They look more like sea creatures

What happens when you imagine a robot? Most likely, you’re picturing something with lots of nuts, bolts, gears and exposed metal. Maybe it’s something like The Terminator or C-3PO or Wall-E.

But an emerging field of robotics stands to change the way you think about these automated marvels. Experts in so-called “soft robotics” are designing new highly flexible robots that, in many cases, look more like sea creatures. The goal? Building machines that can accomplish tasks impossible with more rigid, traditionally-designed robots.

TIME spoke with some of the best and brightest in the emerging field of soft robotics about their work. Take a look and see their creations in the video above.


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