Soft growing vine robots
Soft growing robots that can change their length, control their direction, squeeze through tight spaces, and act as a conduit
About the Technology
The goal of this project is to create a commercially relevant device or family of devices for inspection and manipulation in confined and otherwise difficult-to-reach spaces, such as inside the human body, within the walls of buildings, underground, and around bridges and other infrastructure far from the ground. This requires novel tools with significant dexterity and the ability to carry sensors while minimizing size. Passive and active mechanisms are currently used to deliver cameras to sites of interest in constrained environments, but manipulation is nearly impossible. Existing devices are inherently limited in their ability to make multiple turns, apply significant forces to the environment only at the end-effector, and be quickly and efficiently deployed. We propose to develop devices to meet these needs via an invention that uses pressure-driven eversion and steering of flexible, thin-walled tubes known as “vine robots.” Vine robots can have length change of many thousands of percent, control their growth direction, squeeze through tight spaces a fraction of their diameter, and use their elongated body as a conduit.
This technology is applicable to numerous markets, including agriculture, communications, construction, medical, military, and aerospace. We will analyze these markets, select the most promising one for focused development, characterize the specific problem to be solved, develop new technology/IP, perform regulatory analysis, and present and demonstrate the solution to potential investors.