Soft robotics is a field that not too many are familiar with, but it has led to the creation of some stunning robots. Far from the large and rigid clunkers that are the public face of robots (think: Atlas), soft robotics focuses on bots with a lighter touch, mimicking the graceful movements of natural organisms.
And mimic them they do.
Case in point, a new soft robot created by researchers from the University of Warsaw moves and crawls like a real caterpillar, powered by light.
The robot, described in a paper in Advanced Optical Materials, is made from Liquid Crystalline Elastomers. These are light-sensitive materials that are aligned in a particular molecular pattern, and they change shape when subjected to light.
This robot is controlled by a spatially modulated laser beam, and can not only crawl, but also climb steep inclines, squeeze into minuscule spaces, and move objects ten times its size.