iRobot unveils robot with inflatable manipulating arm

Posted by Shane McGlaun

Personally, I think robots are great, as I can't wait until I can have one that will keep my house clean and my lawn mowed.

So long as the robots don't try to take over the world, or start chasing your blonde-haired girlfriend while wearing your coworkers face, well, robots are probably a good thing.

This is definitely true for iRobot, which manufactures a number of models that are widely used in the military for tasks such as bomb disposal.

Recently, the company showcases a new robot rocking what's called the Advanced Inflatable Robot (AIR) arm model.

The robot looks like a small tank with no turret on top. Several of iRobot's military robots use this same robotic base today.

This version of the robot replaces the typical articulated metal arm with an inflatable arm capable of lifting four times its own weight. The robot arm weighs about half a pound giving the arm a lifting ability of roughly 2 pounds. That doesn't sound like much lifting power, but apparently, most articulating arms are only able to lift a fraction of that weight.

The design of the air-filled arm allows it to be made stronger or weaker by adding or removing air from the structure. When completely deflated, the arm is packed away inside a small box on the back of the robotic base. Operators won't be deploying the arm quickly, it takes roughly 30 seconds for the arm to inflate. There are some electronics inside the arm to work the pincher grasper.

iRobot was granted $625,000 from DARPA to continue the development of the AIRarm. You can check out the video above and see the robot and its inflatable arm in action. It's hard to tell from the video if the up-and-down movement of the arm is controlled by adding or removing air alone. Still, it does seem like you can hear air escaping as the arm lowers the bottle to the floor.