Wed. Oct 4th, 2023
    Researchers Develop SoftZoo: A Platform for Soft Robot Co-design

    Researchers at MIT have developed a groundbreaking soft robot co-design platform called SoftZoo. The platform allows engineers to study and optimize the design and control of soft robots. Soft robotics is a field that focuses on building flexible machines that imitate the movements of animals. SoftZoo utilizes bio-inspired algorithms to automatically generate potential designs for soft robots, and then simulates their performance in different environments.

    The platform features 3D models of animals such as panda bears, fishes, sharks, and caterpillars, which are used to simulate various soft robot tasks like locomotion, agile turning, and path following. By testing these designs in different terrains, SoftZoo helps users understand the performance trade-offs of different robot designs.

    SoftZoo is more comprehensive than other similar platforms because it takes into account the physical features of different biomes when simulating robotic movement. The platform utilizes a differentiable multiphysics engine that allows for the simulation of multiple aspects of a physical system simultaneously. This reduces the number of expensive simulations required to solve computational control and design problems, making the design process more efficient.

    Morphology plays an important role in soft robot design, and SoftZoo highlights the importance of studying biological structures to optimize robot performance. The platform allows designers to co-optimize the robot’s brain and body, resulting in robots that are more specialized and adaptable to their environment. This has potential applications in rescue missions and exploration, where robots with increased intelligence and awareness can navigate complex environments more efficiently.

    SoftZoo is an open-source platform that provides simulation tools for soft robot designers, making it easier to build real-world robots with enhanced locomotion capabilities. However, challenges remain in transferring designs from simulation to physical robots, and further study and advancements in fabrication techniques are required.

    – MIT CSAIL –