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Tube-shaped robots roll up stairs, carry carts, and race one another


Researchers have designed a 4D-printed soft robot that self-assembles when heated and can take on challenging tasks like rolling uphill and navigating a bumpy and unpredictable landscape. The prototype, which is tube-shaped, appears September 22nd in the journal Matter.
“Like an insect with antennae, the robot can surmount a small obstacle. But when the obstacle is too high, it will turn back,” says senior author Wei Feng, a materials scientist at Tianjin University in China. “The whole process is spontaneous without human interference or control.”
The robot starts off as a flat, rectangular sheet of a 3D-printed liquid crystal elastomer, …

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