Stanford Seminar - Embodied Intelligence for Extreme Environments

Stanford Seminar - Embodied Intelligence for Extreme Environments

Embodied Intelligence for Extreme Environments

  • Embodied intelligence for extreme environments involves designing robots that can withstand extreme conditions such as pressure, temperature, and radiation.
  • Traditional robotic exploration is limited by the need for advanced controls, sensors, and computers, which can be costly, heavy, and power-hungry.
  • Soft robotics offers an alternative approach by using compliant materials and structures to achieve strength and adaptability.

Soft Robotic Grippers

  • Elastomeric fluidic actuators and gecko-inspired adhesives are two complementary technologies for gripping objects in space.
  • A model was developed to design soft robotic grippers that maintain even surface pressure distribution across an arbitrary object.
  • Researchers developed a gripper with gecko-inspired adhesives that outperforms similar grippers without the adhesives.
  • The gripper's performance depends on the size of the object being gripped, with better performance on larger objects.
  • The gripper enables new grasp options, such as hybrid grasps where one finger provides normal force and the other provides surface adhesion.
  • The gripper can lift objects with forces comparable to state-of-the-art grippers, but at lower pressure, which maintains flexibility and scalability.
  • The researchers scaled up the gripper design for potential use in capturing and refueling satellites.
  • The gripper uses a sequential deployment mechanism to conform to unknown surfaces, but stability becomes more challenging with more joints.
  • Surface friction has a positive effect on stabilizing grasps, allowing the gripper to engage and torque down onto surfaces without losing contact.
  • The gripper's compliant design allows it to wrap around arbitrary shapes without damaging them.

Vine Robots

  • Vine robots offer a potential solution for exploring coral reefs due to their simple deployment mechanism and ability to squeeze through tight spaces.
  • Vine robots are soft, inflatable robots that can navigate through cluttered environments.
  • The robots are made of a flexible material that can buckle and deform under low pressure.
  • This flexibility allows the robots to interact with their environment and reinforce their structure.
  • The robots can be trained on known examples to improve their performance in unknown environments.
  • Vine robots can be used for gripping and anchoring in constrained spaces.

Cold Arm

  • Cold arm is a project that aims to reduce the thermal power consumption of robotic arms in cold environments.
  • Cold arm uses bulk metallic glasses that maintain their elasticity and flexibility at very cold temperatures.

Ice Node

  • The Ice Node project is a drifting robotic vehicle designed to study ice shelves and reduce uncertainty in sea level rise projections.
  • Ice Node uses its buoyancy to control its depth and drift along currents beneath the ice shelf.
  • The vehicle lands on the ice using a pyrotechnically severed ballast and compliant legs to absorb any differences in ice conditions.
  • After a period of data collection, Ice Node detaches from its legs and returns to neutral buoyancy to drift back out to open water.


  • The speaker thanks everyone who contributed to their work, including collaborators from their PhD and JPL projects, as well as colleagues at Stanford.

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