MAKE: Soft Robotics

In 2018, O’Reilly published a book I wrote with Kari Love titled “MAKE: Soft Robotics – A DIY Introduction to Squishy, Stretchy, and Flexible Robots”

The book is an exploration of soft robotics through more than a dozen DIY projects built for makers and hobbyists to replicate using simple store bought materials. It covers topics as diverse as spacesuit design, bioinspiration, silicone casting, 3d printing, and the future of medical robotics.

Here’s an excerpt from “CHAPTER 1: Introduction to Soft Robotics”:

Soft robots can elegantly adapt to the huge variety of shapes and sizes that people come in. Attaching hard robots directly to the human body can generate a lot of problems (chafing, bruising, pressure points), while the poor fit of a wearable robot has the additional danger of potentially injuring the user. Even accounting for a perfect initial fit, bodies change, and a hard robot might not be able to accommodate those changes. All of our example users’ bodies can change rapidly. Soldiers can gain or lose muscle mass based on training or field conditions. Child patients grow rapidly. Patients with a degenerative disease can be losing muscle mass or have baseline degradation of neutral positioning. A soft robot can help mitigate these issues, since it isn’t just putting padding over a component, but is inherently soft, and also therefore more adaptable.

The book also features an introduction from Chris Atkeson, professor at the Robotics Institute and Human-Computer Interaction Institute at Carnegie Mellon University and the inspiration for Baymax from Disney’s Big Hero 6. He’s been a huge influence on my soft robotics work since the beginning, and it was wonderful to have him on the project.

The book includes 25 illustrations I made from a combination of hand sketches and CAD. I’m also proud of the process of refinement both the designs themselves and the instructions underwent. We had the privilege of having soft robotics pioneer Aidan Leitch on board as a technical editor, and he replicated each of the major projects from the written instructions to make sure everything was complete, clear, and realistic.

You can pick up a copy for yourself here.